Feeling like it's the last straw

This is my first post after reading this site on and off for years. I feel like I have no one to talk to (except my therapist who has saved my sanity and is a godsend!) that understands what a rollercoaster being married to ADHD spouse is except you all and so here goes... I have been married for 17 years and have two teenagers. My son was diagnosed with ADHD 2 years ago which led my husband into finally seeking treatment for his undiagnosed ADHD after much prodding from me. DH takes meds but that is the extent of his treatment. I will admit they help but not nearly enough.

Our life has been a financial disaster because of him for a while. He was fired from a company that he had worked for for 12 years in 2004 and has had an unsuccessful job, or no job, ever since. Our house has been in foreclosure for almost 5 years, we have no savings, no college funds, and live paycheck to paycheck. I provide 80% of the financial support to the family but he would deny that out of pride and the general state of denial that he lives in. In 2007 I found out that he had a pretty significant gambling problem and he had gambled about $8,000.00 and our son's college savings account away. That was almost the end. I felt like I had been so betrayed and didn't know him anymore. I almost left. Now I wonder if that would have been wise. He promised that he would never gamble again and would have no access to our money. This put managing all of the finances on my plate which was a huge stress as the money never seems to go far enough and I feel like I am the parent in the relationship. That holds true in many areas, not just financially. In any case, that was when my trust really eroded. I have never really felt the same towards him because of how let down I feel about him as a husband and a provider.

Today I found his stash of cigarettes. I get smoking is a tough habit. I smoked myself for 15 years. He went to a healer last year and bartered about $3,000 worth of remodeling work in exchange for her help in quitting. I supported that choice and was proud of him for helping himself. The healer helped in other ways too and I thought this was the start of some real personal growth. I felt encouraged, but cautiously so, as I just don't trust him to be telling me the whole truth anymore after all that has happened. I kind of suspected he may be smoking again so I asked him the other day how that was going. He said he had a few slip ups over the year when he was drinking at his cousin's house, but overall it worked great. So when I found the cigarettes today the lying was what pissed me off. I sent him a text with a picture of the cigarettes and said "you wonder why I don't trust you" and he immediately replied they were old, he's not smoking. The 4 empty packs of cigarettes had a contest ad on them dated a month ago so again, more lies. I have told him before that the lying is what bothers me, if you are smoking so be it, that's your choice. I would sympathize that it's tough to quit. The healer who has become a close friend to him and wants to help him would be happy to work with him again. He seems to resist doing anything that can help him. It took 5 years of showing him articles and books about ADHD for him to acknowledge that he may have it.

I have been seriously thinking about leaving for almost a year now. I have told him so. I have told him that living like this will literally kill me and I refuse to let that happen. I have begged him to go see a therapist. I think he has not only ADHD, but possibly and anxiety disorder and/or depression. He went to a psychiatrist last year who put him on meds that turned him into a zombie so that was a fail. He was never formally diagnosed but has a prescription for Vyvanse from a practitioner who is a friend and agrees he has it. He tried counseling again after pressure from me, with a psychologist this spring (3 visits) but said they had nothing to talk about. I asked him did you mention that your house is in foreclosure, your marriage is on the rocks, you haven't had a steady job in 8 years, you have a gambling problem, drink too much and have ADHD? No, they didn't talk about that. I am so frustrated.

Am I being a fool thinking he will see the light and go get some real help or grow up? He's 43. That seems to be the magic age on this site. I am thinking of telling him tonight that if he doesn't start therapy within the next two months I want a separation. I love him but I am not happy and haven't been for too long. I can't trust him, I don't respect him and I am tired of being the only adult in this marriage.

I was going to make a crack

I was going to make a crack about your pick of 43 as the "magic age," but then I did the math and realized that my husband was 43 when he was fired from his job as a computer science researcher, the best-paying job he has ever had.  The joke is on me....

Fooling yourself

I feel your pain. It's a terrible spot you've come to live in. Reality is that people don't change until they have the epiphany that they want to be the changed person. And outside forces can not create epiphanies. You've enabled his bad coping mechanisms by bailing him out each time. I have done the same. After all we need a place to live and food to eat. But that reinforces bad behavior. He lies because he doesn't want disappoint you and admit he's failed again. Therapy only works when he recognizes there is a problem to be fixed. And it sounds like he's still in denial. Your post did nothing to convince me your husband wants to change his circumstances, until he does, you will be disappointed.

My Dh was only 41 when he had to retire from his great job due to disability and he's yet to be consistently productive since. I think he was 43 when diagnosed though, in 2005. Perhaps it's the magic age because its a pinnacle of life stress. Charming.

stalled fool

Thank you Shelley. Your right and that's exactly what I am waiting for; his epiphany. I can't wrap my brain around his inability to see the problem. I have told him flat out I NEED things to change, this is not working for me, you need to get some help. Either he is still processing the reality of that, or it is time to realize it's hopeless. Something makes me hold out hope. And breaking up my family seems counterproductive; I love him, he has a disorder that causes much of the stress in our lives, we have been together since we were teens. I don't know life any other way. I would like it to be different though.

After the cigarette thing yesterday I told him we would talk when he got home. He came home and immediately found a list of chores to immerse himself in, and surprise!  No discussion. Conveniently for him I am leaving today with the kids for 3 days and he expects I'll just get over it. He has plans to finish our shower that he began back in December so he thinks I'll come home and be like "Good boy, everything is better now because you fixed something." Not happening. The shower being half, not even half done for over 6 months is just evidence of how he operates. He has no ability to organize and plan ahead. I know that is part of ADHD and I have tried to enlighten him about this to but he always thinks this time will be different.

How is it possible that knowing you have a disorder that impacts your life and everyone you cares about so much, that you can't even READ A BOOK to learn about it? He carried around Is it you, Me, or ADHD for 3 days telling me he was going to read it, thinking that would appease me somehow but never read a page. That kind of stuff only makes it worse for me. I'm like...Oh, Oh, here we go, some progress! He's going to read this finally! Then, nope. Another disappointment, what a surprise.

What I wanted last night, and a little stupid part of me expected last night, was for him to walk up to me when he got home, and like a man say, "I'm sorry. I lied to you again. I can't imagine how hurt you must be (sadly true, his brain apparently can't) and I don't know why I keep doing this." He knows this is what I expect and deserve, as the one session we had with my counselor a few weeks ago focused on exactly that. AND he actually did apologize in an authentic way once, a week after counseling, for a unintentional but very hurtful comment. What scared me about that, is at the time, I barely registered that what he said was rude until my daughter called him out on it and said "Did you just SAY that to Mom? that's mean!" I've become numb/oblivious to so much.

I feel like I have 4 years of a sentence remaining and then I'll be free to decide without guilt. In 4 years the kids will be off to college (hopefully on full scholarships or generous financial aid as we have NOTHING). Right now my kids need me as I am the reliable, stable parent. If I leave him, there will be less of me, as much of my energy will be consumed by the divorce and managing our post-divorce lives. I have friends with kids who are divorced and that is their nightmare. I don't want that. Plus, I can manage what happens to the kids when we are together, where if the kids had to be shuffled around... I don't have any oversight. Post kids, I can't see this relationship surviving the way it functions right now. We can't even go out to dinner without getting into an argument. I honestly can't remember the last time we had fun together or enjoyed one another's company.

Four year sentence

Hey that's not so bad, you've already done 17 years.  Regarding the reading thing, it is really hard for most people with ADHD to read a book they aren't viscerally grabbed by. And a book about how his brain is ruining your lives he is going to want to run from. It's much easier for my dh to listen to books. Much much easier. If you are going to stick it out knowing its unlikely to change materially in the meantime, I suggest that you will be happier if you let the anger and resentment go. Can't do anything about it, being upset helps no one, and perhaps you can be civil with one another. A book that helped me see that is ACT with LOVE. It's for all relationships not just ADHD ones. 

All unhappiness is the result of unmet expectations.

I Feel Your Pain

Stalled and Stressed,

I can relate to so much of what you have said. Everyone's situation is so unique and yet I can't get over the similarities. My husband is undiagnosed and refuses to talk about adhd, or anything, so coming to these forums helps me to not feel crazy. I've also decided to focus on helping our 8yo son who is recently diagnosed, so that has helped a lot and I am learning SO much from his Psychologist and just in general. Dh is in denial and I really can't help him past that: he has to make that decision for himself. We have so many books lying around here, including the one you mentioned, but I no longer ask him to read anything. He knows I want him to read them. He knows they're there. I am in a mourning process right now for the marriage I thought I could have but don't. I vacillate between anger and acceptance and sadness over what I have lost, even though I never really had it. Ironically, I was deluded as well. So sad, but helpful once I recognized it for what it was. 

Instead, I am focusing on my faith and on myself and on living in my reality and not in false hope. I, too, am leaving on a trip with my kids. We'll be gone a month. After that, I am trying to prepare for a separation. I can no longer live like this and have told dh as much. I am very explicit: "I am not going to continue this pattern or stay on this path. I would love for you to get off the road with me, but either way, I am leaving it." We have done counseling. He inevitably stops going. He won't read books. He won't discuss it with me. The hardest part has been accepting that I can not make him do these things. So I am left to decide, what is in my control to do? And how much can I live with? Now what do I do with that knowledge? 

Even though dh has commented that he is "going to do a lot of thinking" while the kids and I are gone, I do not hold my breath. This time, I am more grounded in the reality of the pattern of the past 19 years, which is avoidance and denial and a complete detachment on his part. He has escaped into his computer since 1999 (I am using sarcasm for emphasis but really I exaggerate very little) and is, I am recognizing, delusional and completely incapable of identifying or handling strong emotion, from inside himself or from anyone else. If he actually comes to me about "his thinking" I will wonder what alien has invaded his body and what has he done with my husband. And I would struggle with hopeful emotions because he, too, has woken up from time to time and done things around the house, but it's always with the sense of, See, I'm not so bad. I have zero trust in his motives, for reasons much bigger than simply not following through. But it comes down to him always doing things in a defensive way -- he's extremely defensive -- like he's trying to prove himself to me and the world and I don't really know who all anymore but I'm so weary of being the only one trying to figure it out. Nor is it my job. For this marriage to survive, he will have to not only have make concrete changes, he will have to have a complete change of heart -- and he will have to play a part in persuading mine as well. I would be a fool to continue giving him the benefit of the doubt on blind faith. 

My heart goes out to you and your efforts, but I will suggest that you set your dh aside for the moment and try to determine what, exactly, are your needs. And what of those are being met right now, and what can you live without. Look at your present reality and try not to think about "If Only," because unless your husband decides to make changes, they will not be made.

I recently benefited from the book, "Facing Codependence" by Pia Mellody. It helped me to further identify what part I am playing in this crazy cycle, which is a step toward getting out of it. It takes two to tango. And my role, after all, is the only one I can control. As is yours. I wish you the best of luck. 

thank you

Dear Jolyn,

I'm sure we all feel the same bittersweet feeling of relief that someone else is going through the same experience and hopelessness at the same time. Your advice is appreciated and on target. I have been focusing on my needs for a change and coming to terms with the fact that this may not work out, and if so, that will be ok. I will survive and may even be happier for it. I have been quite clear to DH how I feel. He doesn't like it. He wants to continue along the path of me being the enabler and just accepting his behaviors and past hurts without resentment. Of course this has never been the case. resentments just build until they boil over and that is where I am right now. I am sick of hearing that I am the one who needs to let it go. I obviously can't, for a reason, like... probably survival.

We had a "discussion" last night that was probably the closest we came to saying this isn't working anymore. Over the last couple of months, weeks? I don't even know anymore, he feels like I have given up on us and that the writing is on the wall. I don't show him affection, respect, or interest and he feels I have become apathetic. I said your probably right. I have been trying to get you to see that you need to change your behaviors or I am leaving. You don't need to read the writing on the wall, I AM TELLING YOU AND HAVE BEEN FOR A YEAR NOW. I can't deny that I do feel like I don't respect him. How can I when he repeatedly lets me down. I don't feel like being affectionate because there are way too many unresolved issues that get in the way. My interest in him is all affected by the disaster our life has become and his denial to see it. I don't think that's apathy. I just refuse to play the game anymore. I'm not going to engage in behavior that suggests that everything is ok because to me that just perpetuates it. Am I right or just poisoned by bitterness at this point?

I wish you strength and ease in getting through what lies ahead for you and your family. I will check out that book you recommended. I was just reading Melissa's book and decided to buy it. Just curious, what did you think, helpful? He claims he's going to read this one too after I told him just now that I was reading it and that our marriage has a "textbook" case of ADHD dysfunction. We'll see ... not holding my breath.




magic indeed

Just incredulous as I realized that 43 was the magic age for my almost ex, too. Why is that? One of my dear friends calls the mid-forties the time when "everyone has to deal with their sh$t."  

I am sorry you are going through this. You are not being a fool wishing that the person that you love would "deal with his sh$t," lol, especially when it affects you so directly. The therapist thing is tough--I went through it, too--finally convinced mine to see a doctor but of course, doctors treat patients from the patient's point of view. If he is only going because you are insisting on it, then it may not help very much with your marriage problems, unfortunately. 

I don't blame you and I feel for you. I left my almost ex last year after concluding that I had tried everything to get him to deal with his "sh$t" and that he wasn't going to any time soon and that I couldn't suffer and wait any more. It is heartbreaking, and some may disagree, but you have a lot of life ahead of you and I understand completely if you give him an ultimatum. And make a plan for yourself if he does not follow through. I agree that you should spend time figuring out what it is that you need to be happy in life.  My best to you. Hang in there and take care of yourself. 


Mine was 46

Maybe some kind of mid-life crisis. When I started dating him, he was 41, and I apparently was his first serious relationship. He still lived with his mother, and lied about having ever lived on his own. (If I'd found out he never had paid rent or lived on his own, I'd have bailed at the start.) When we got married, he was 43, and he lost his job 6 weeks later (for very ADD reasons).

Then he went through a long spiral of depression and job loss (while I had 2 jobs). I made him get treatment for the depression or I was out of there.  The counselor he saw for the depression diagnosed the ADD. He was 46 by then. I was told he would need a year of treatment before he could pay attention to me or our marriage, or be expected to get a job. He finally got a job and we had 3 half-way decent years (well, he was happy even if I wasn't). When he lost that job (now 49) he refused to look for a new one, and after supporting him for a year, I finally bailed. Now he gets food stamps and his mother pays half his rent. The landlord agreed to take only half the rent, and he would catch up when he found a job, but he's not looking and the landlord is after me for the other half, and threatening to evict him (which would go on my record too). So agree that the 40s are an age when guys are expected to get their s**t together, and he never did.  How in the world he's going to survive without working I have no idea. He won't entertain the idea of either working or applying for disability.




no regrets



Good for you for seeing that was an unhealthy relationship and leaving. I appreciate you sharing your story. The 40's are tough, no doubt. The rose-colored glasses fade and life choices become crystal clear.

That doesn't mean there are no regrets

I know I can't go back, and I don't really want to. But I regret every day that my husband wouldn't choose me over his ADD behaviors, wouldn't choose to work, wouldn't choose to clean the dog poop off the floor, doesn't even seem to miss me. I see no way to be happy. I'll miss him always, but living with him was miserable and unsafe. Falling in love with an ADDer, with a few exceptions, is the first step on a long and miserable road.

it's soooo hard


Thank you. I am trying to look at my future objectively and make choices that are healthy for me and my kids. I can't make him see what needs to change and I can't spell it out any clearer. He accused me last night of being selfishly plotting when the best time would be to leave him. He has been reading my computer histories and knows "my plan". I have been flat out honest that I am not happy and will divorce him if things don't change. He asked me to spell out what the problems are in writing, so I did and wrote him a letter. That was weeks ago and I got no response, he has not addressed any of my concerns except in a defensive way. I got sick of him getting all tweaked out when he 'happened" to look at my phone or computer and see that I am reading about divorce, adhd, marriage, etc. so now I consistently erase my history. He finds this suspicious. I find it conflict reducing. I told him I don't have "a plan" but I am hopeful that you will seek help soon, get your anxiety under control with your medication, and develop a proactive plan for your inevitable layoff this winter due to your choice to work in a field that is historically inconsistent. At that point, about 6 months from now, I will know if this marriage has a future or that I will be miserable due to the trajectory it is headed. He didn't like that answer. I thought it was fair and honest. Thoughts?

I wish you peace and joy in your life. I see that you give a lot trying to help others on this site. Thank you!

I think you are being very

I think you are being very fair and honest.  My husband sounds like yours.  I have repeatedly expressed to my husband what I don't like about our marriage.  I have made many attempts to "improve" myself, some successful, others not so much.  I have communicated with my husband about his behaviors that I don't like.  My husband occasionally says he's unhappy and more often tells me that I nag and complain too much.  He has made very few changes to his behaviors.  

I have thought many times that perhaps my husband doesn't take me seriously because it seems to him that I'm all talk, no action.

I finally filed for a separation, two months ago.  I told my husband the next day (he was out of town when I filed).  He has communicated twice about this new twist, to ask "what happens next?"  Otherwise, nothing.  In these two months, he hasn't once expressed an opinion as to whether he wants to stay married or not.  It's very frustrating.


Hi stalled,

I was out of town for a bit. Hope you are doing well. I think the most stressful time I had was when I was contemplating leaving and figuring out what I may have to do. I think it is good that you realize what you need and are committed to following through for yourself if you need to. I think you are being completely fair. The history on the internet/"accidentally" seeing your activity is tough--I am with you in trying to avoid conflict and protect your privacy, even though it may raise his hackles. Maybe you could hit the public library or something if it gets more intense so there is no issue of erasing history or him searching through what you have been doing? I am sure he is feeling insecure but this is a terrible position to be in, to feel like you can't seek the help you need without him "tweaking," lol. 

This must be different for everyone, but the healthiest thing I did was accept that my spouse might not be able to do what I needed. And I stopped being upset or mad at him about it (as much as I could at the time) and started thinking about what I would do for myself and kids if he could not or would not. All of the energy I put into trying to get him to "see" and to change became freed up to take care of myself and my children. There was a period he was pretty mad at me right after I left--he had come to rely on me taking care of him and absolutely everything and the bottom did fall out for him for a while afterward. You know what? We came out of it and are so much better off now that we are not together--he does not have the stress of me begging him to seek help all the time, and I do not have to be in a marriage with a man who unfortunately can barely function.

I think setting up a timeline is smart--it gives you a concrete plan for yourself, which gives you some control over the situation. I am sorry you are going through this. I know how painful it is. Peace to you, too.