High IQ ADHD husband does not contribute financially. Exhausted. Frustrated. Any hope or encouragement out there?

My husband and I are 35.  He was diagnosed with ADHD 6 months ago.  We married at 22, right out of college.  He is a genius, who did very well at a top-notch college (at that time, top 15) despite putting little effort into his studies.  Being young when we married, I believe I was reasonable at that time to believe that he would do well in life because of his obvious academic talents.  I graduated from the same top school as my husband, also doing well, but deep-down all I ever really wanted to be is a mother who was the glue behind a great family and a confident man.  It is not about the money.  I was raised middle-class, and would have been perfectly happy staying there.  He is well aware of all of this - we have discussed these facts the entire time we've been married (and before). 

Well, fast-forward 13 years . . . we put off having children because we somehow knew the stability wasn't really there.  I have 2 graduate degrees, I am a successful attorney, and I have made 95%+ of the money over the course of our relationship.  I am a capable and well-liked person, which is why I fell a**-backward into great (i.e. high paying) jobs over the years - it is NOT because I am particularly career-oriented in any way.  He has basically drifted through life, trying desperately to hang onto retail management jobs very sporadically over this time period.  We were getting older and both really wanted children . . . he seemed to have some kind of epiphany - after toying with the idea of going into academia (which would really suit him, but would take forever to attain), he decided he was really going to focus on his career and just making money for the family so that I would eventually not have to work so much.  Ok, so he became a real estate agent and did really well at it for a while - just long enough for us to think it would be a great idea to go ahead and get pregnant.  So, now we have a 2 year old daughter who is precious and perfect and the light of our lives.  But of course the real estate thing fizzled out, I burned out at my job, and he was diagnosed with ADHD, all around the time when we were supposed to be trying to have our 2nd child, which we still really both want, even though we are driving each other crazy right now. 

I decided that I could not go on with such a stressful job, and am now working for a more low-key firm, which of course means less money.  That's fine, as long as he cooperates with downsizing our lives a bit, which he's done ok at so far, but sometimes his symptoms work against it - the impulse buys, damaging/not taking care of our property, etc.  He is not working.  He feels that his treatment is his work, and that he is not ready yet.  To be fair, he does have really severe adult-ADHD - all of his team of ADHD professionals have commented that he is their "worst" patient (worst symptoms, not least cooperative or anything like that).  He plans to go back to school to prepare him for some kind of ADHD-related career (like counseling or special ed teacher), which I totally support.  However, I feel like this is taking forever.  He is progressing well with his treatment and doing a lot better with tasks around the house.  I understand he does not want to jump into another "career" type job too hastily, then have to change later because he chose the wrong thing - that would be a waste of time for all of us.  But the dude is a genius - surely he could find something to do in the meantime (before he goes back to school) that would contribute a little financially - intellectually there would be many jobs that would be so easy for him, like test prep instructor, or tutor, or delivery driver (he loves driving and listening to lectures or the radio).  Why won't he contribute financially?!  I am so exhausted (mentally and physically) from supporting this family all of these years!  I know he will get on the right track eventually (his treatment really is going in the right direction), but geez, give me a break!  I have been so patient and supportive here - throw me a damn bone!  And I really want that 2nd baby, like now.  I am getting too old to have another after much longer!  His parents are being very supportive (including financially), but I do not feel right taking money from them for very long when I am capable of working (even if it will kill me). 

Any similar experiences out there that turned out well?  Please say yes.  I love my husband and our family.  I'm just sooooooo tired of working so hard, and I want to be able to focus more on our home life, including adding that 2nd child.  We are both great parents, but I would like to be there more than I am now.   

QD-PRN's picture

I can empathise with you.

Even though I have ADHD, I am aware of how others perceive me, especially family. I was diagnosed with ADHD two years ago and now know why I feel so isolated. Adults without ADHD who are married to someone with ADHD sometimes feel isolated. I draw my strength from the love of my life, something ADHD patients sometimes have difficulty with. I refer to women who are in a relationship and feel isolated, "Married but Single." and a husband does not have to have ADHD for a woman to feel that way. My girlfriend thinks it's so sweet that I leave messages all over our home telling me to acknowledge her emotionally. How she feels, is more important to me than how I feel. My IQ is in the top 1%. I just got tired of feeling like a child and not fitting in. After my ex-wife and I divorced, I figured I should start to put my IQ to work for me.

     I could never know how it feels to be a loving mother. The frustration you are feeling with your marriage, tells me that you are a very kind and loving person.

carathrace's picture

This is just my opinion.  To

This is just my opinion.  To me, you seem like a very fortunate woman.  If you read the stories on this site, you will see that your husband's willingness to cooperate with treatment is extraordinary!  You still love him, too, which is a BIG plus.  Do you know how lucky you are?

You asked for hope & encouragement, and mine to you is: focus on what you have, not what you don't have.  I hear that you'd like to take time to raise your children, that you'd like to work less and have your husband take over the financial responsibilities.  And it looks like you're heading in that direction.  Maybe it would help you keep the faith, if you asked one of his "team of ADHD professionals" if you could sit in on a session or two, for the purpose of setting a timeline for you, your husband, your family.  I know it would help me if I were in your shoes, to know what benchmarks we're all working toward -- I could hang in there better if it was understood by all that by such-and-such a date, I will probably get some relief.

If your husband's ADHD is as severe as they say, you are fortunate that he's functioning as well as he is.  I know you had expectations of what your life would be like, and his diagnosis of ADHD has thrown off your plans somewhat, but he sounds worth hanging in there for.

Hear you

I can empathize, too. My STBX is a brilliant, talented guy, one of the quickest wits and smartest people that you have ever met. Untreated ADHD and denial led to him fizzling out completely. He can hardly function now, and does not work. I think folks with ADHD have a very tough time with stress. It made mine sick. Now he is on disability.

Carathrace makes a good point. I feel for you- having that much stress hanging over you all the time is hard. But you sound like you love him and he is trying. I spent a long time wishing mine would just figure it out, darn it. If I had accepted that this was the way things were going to be, maybe I would have known what to do sooner. Mine also used to tell me that he could not do x because he needed all of his attention to focus on y. I think he was being honest. I would think, well, no adult with kids gets to only do y while their spouse does a, c, k, z, and f 24/7, lol. I would have given anything for him to embrace treatment. 

Can you compromise? I know, it sounds like you have held everything together for a long time. A second child will be wonderful and stretch you thinner as well. Can he get a part time, more menial job? Is he willing to stay with the children at home some of the time? It sounds like you may be able to bring in more income than him.  Maybe at this point working at the wrong job is not a waste of time but just a way to make some money for him. And if his parents want to help and they can and its all positive, by all means maybe you should let them. Use it just for your kids' things if it makes you feel better?

And you may need to accept that he may always be like this. He has a significant brain issue and there may be some long years ahead if you are waiting for him to be different and get that great career. I have been there. Genius and potential may not translate into ability to function, unfortunately. Many here talk about letting go of the idea that your marriage will look like someone else's or be a certain way. Hang in there. 

Similar but different

Hello. I'm sorry you are struggling. My story has its parallels to yours but diverges in important ways. My dh is smart and skilled. He was an electrician when we married. A perfect ADHD job. But then his thumbs fell apart. So then the retraining saga began. School was a disaster, and was when he was diagnosed with ADHD. He could be the poster adult. Great grades, ex math, but procrastinated terribly and developed bad life skill habits. Then we had to relocate for my career, I've been sole income earner for ten years now. And he wanted to redeem himself for his mismanagement of our last remodel by getting one right in the new city. Well that four month renovation is in its fifth year and while he seems to finally be in gear it's been tough. 

I tend to disagree with the need to concentrate on fixing the ADHD. I think that having a job would have helped my dh by providing structure and a schedule and other social interaction. ADHD folks are pretty good at having many irons in the fire. Not so good at finishing any of them though. If I were you I'd be worried about the vagueness of his plan. He needs deadlines. And a schedule. 

I would also do some soul searching on your life plan. I know you want another child, but do consider that your children will likely also have adhd. The stress of another child will likely make husbands ADHD worse, all stress does. We went to a seminar on ADHD relationships and one of the main messages was to de stress your life. Do half of what you think you can.  I think it would be a good idea for you to see a therapist of your own, do some grieving over your new reality. The expectations from when you were 22 can't be met. If you haven't yet, I strongly recommend Orlov's and Pera's books. They really helped me. Best wishes.

Fear of failure?

It seems that since university (a place with a structure, a path and a goal) he has really only succeeded at the real estate business until either the market became more challenging or he fizzled, and that other jobs haven't worked out at all.  The real estate business also had a clearly defined goal, and had variety, so he succeeded until he didn't.  Seems like he would flourish in a project-oriented environment.  Have you discussed with him some sort of volunteer activity to give him structure and where he can gain confidence, and to let him try different activities. Succeeding in helping others might convince him that he will not flame out in a job environment. Sorry if I'm off beam, it does sound from what you have said that perhaps he is wanting to put off getting into a situation where he will fail.  His confidence muscles won't grow until they're challenged. Of course I could be totally off-beam, apologies if I have it all wrong.

ADHDers thrive on variety and

ADHDers thrive on variety and stimulation. When I was dating my hubby he was a cop and he excelled at it. But the time management eventually got him fired. And he's struggled ever since. He's extremely intelligent, MENSA level actually, but that doesn't mean he should be off doing something that takes advantage of that. I know that there are some ADHD counselors out there but I can't imagine a worse profession for someone with it. Does your husband have an idea of what he wants to do or are expectations forcing him into a field that might not be a long lasting solution? Real estate probably was good for him because it's fairly cut throat and you have to move fast. He was probably working against the clock a lot, which is why he excelled.

As for a second child, don't do it. As Carathrace said, be happy for what you do have. And as one of my friends said yesterday on Facebook, "Some people wait all their lives for their ship to come in only to realize that they've been standing in an airport." Your life might not be like you imagined, but that doesn't mean you can't be happy in it. A ton of people out there LONG for just one child, they go to extraordinary lengths to have one or get one. You are blessed in that you are a mother, which was one of your life goals. Yeah, you probably wanted multiple children, but sometimes things don't happen that way. I thought that I would have children, but when the realities of living with an ADHD husband set in, I began to question my desire. I realized that I didn't want to be a mother so much that I wouldn't mind doing everything on my own. While my husband is light years better than when he was first diagnosed four years ago, I still have my reservations about introducing a child into the equation. I was resentful about that at first, and now I'm not sure what I feel. I've basically decided to give it until next year when I'm 32, to make a decision. In any case, we can't afford a child right now as I'm the sole bread winner too. My hubby works full time at part time pay as a DJ and rarely contributes unless I constantly remind him. He is actively seeking another job but hasn't had any luck. It's frustrating for us both; he wants back into law enforcement because that's his passion and I want him back in it too so that he will regain his confidence. I used to think that it would take us back to when we were dating, but now I know that the best thing to hope for is for more stability. If we get there, then we'll revisit the question of children.