On Guilt, Divorce, and Perceived Helplessness

Here's a brief rundown: My wife has ADD. She is forgetful to the extreme, always looking for keys, always late for things, defensive when given the slightest bit of criticism. Over the years, she has been asked to do the same things over and over again, and she seems to be unable to learn.

In July of 2010, I sat her down and said, "We're in trouble." I listed all the ADD things that, at the time, I didn't know were ADD things. I thought she was just purposefully blowing me off and disregarding things, or I thought she was just stupid. In any event, my opinion of her really fell below the level it should be for a marriage. I want to love her. I don't want to bear a burden. And I felt I was bearing a big, heavy, forgetful, absentminded, unable-to-learn-anything burden.

In September 2010, we started couples therapy. She was diagnosed ADD ("Seven out of ten on the severity scale" was that therapist's guess). The therapist recommended either medication or talk therapy. I said I'd be willing to support either or both. My wife chose neither. In fact, she chose to stop marriage counseling, too, because she was starting a new job, and didn't want to irritate her new employer with a slight change in her schedule. ("Slight" here is defined as, showing up an hour later than usual on Mondays and working an hour later--something that would have been acceptable.)

So she does not treat her ADD. And five months later, her employer calls her into the office and says she's going to be fired if she doesn't shape up. She doesn't shape up. How can she? She has ADD. She can't remember small details, and the job was all about small details. She quits to avoid being fired.

Five months of unemployment. No unemployment checks. Five months of her saying to me, "Why do YOU get to have a nice job and I don't?" Five months of me saying, "You need to apply to minimum wage jobs so that you have some income so that your savings don't run out." She does not apply to enough jobs, or the right job, and five months later, she's nearly broke. Emotionally I am drained.

Now, she has a new job. And today, she overheard her employer say they were about to fire her and look for her replacement.

I'm sick of this. I have read Melissa's book. I've read John Gottman's seven principles. I even read some other ADD book. We went to a second counselor while she was unemployed and she couldn't offer anything that we haven't tried. Nothing seems to work.

And yet, I'm unable to steel myself long enough to say, it's over. She cries. She says she hates life and that she doesn't want to be on this earth anymore. And for all my dissatisfaction with the marriage, I can't seem to shake my sense of obligation to her. She "loves" me. She's just incapable of doing so much that I want from a spouse: noticing messes and necessary home improvements; shopping frugally; respecting my space; accepting, remembering, putting into practice the criticism I (now very gently) give her; etc, etc.

It's like Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jeckyl loves me and wants to do everything possible to make me happy. Mr. Hyde wants none of that, ruins her best intentions. Do I divorce Mr. Hyde in spite of Dr. Jeckyl? Is anyone else going through this, too?