How to deal with someone who thinks they can do everything?

Hi all - 

My husband hasn't been able to keep a job for more than 18 months throughout our 21 years of marriage. The last job he had was almost 2 years ago, and he has made zero effort to find a new one. I'm fine with this, since he doesn't get good jobs and I work full time and make a very good living, he takes care of household things (for the most part). The kind of jobs he tends to get are very low on the totem pole since he gets fired for something or other every time, or he finds a reason to quit within just a few months. I gave up on him being a contributor money-wise many years ago. 

Anyway, here's my current issue. I mentioned an initiative at work we're doing to cultivate a very specialized type of persona. His response was that we should talk to him since he knows about this stuff and was figuring it out years before anyone else and has all the expertise that anyone could ask for in his head. First of all, he's never done anything in this field, has zero experience in this field, and I just found it completely weird that he would position himself as someone who did. He was very offended when I gently asked him what kind of experience or projects he's done that I could present to my team as proof of these experiences, and came back with how it's all in his head and if people would just listen to him all their problems would be solved. WTF. 

Is this an ADD/aDHD thing? I get this constantly, the inflated ego, the need for praise where praise isn't due, the glorification of non-existent skills. Sometimes I almost feel like he's mentally ill. 


Can't say if that is ADD.  But my dh thinks the same way (in a world where he lies to himself) AND he is very expressive and forceful with his verbal skills.  He was a good salesman in his time because he plays a "cat and mouse" game with chess.  He can talk up a story and people tend to believe him.  I, on the other hand, can see through his ego and b.s. because I have known him for over 40 years.  I think these guys really believe their stories in their own heads which is why they can be so persuasive.  But it is scary to be married to someone who does not have a firm grip on reality and presents himself as someone other that who he is.  The need for praise....oh my.  He wants me to comment on how good he looks....and he doesn't look that good to me.  The inability to see the truth is like a mental illness.  Yet, it is also a coping tool.  They are coping with their failures by denying the facts and the truth and living in a made up world where they have worth and prestige.



My sympathies:-) My ex with untreated ADHD had some of that going on. He was the best...whatever. Always. And would frequently, well into his forties, just announce, "I could do that" when seeing some genius head of a billion dollar computer company or a climber who had made it to the top of Mt. Everest, on the news. 

I think a lifetime of ADHD can give someone pretty low self-esteem. I agree with jenna--it sounds like a coping mechanism, coupled with a disconnect with reality or self-perception. And the need for praise, that was huge, along with a very hurt reaction to any gentle suggestion of reality. (I was always made to feel disloyal when I questioned him--you just couldn't do it). I can't tell you if this is merely ADHD or something else along with it. It was pretty extreme and along with everything else, often made me wonder if there were a larger mental illness going on. 

That must be a tough situation when it crosses over into your own workplace. My best to you as you navigate this. Hang in there. 

Master of the Universe

"Is this an ADD/aDHD thing? ... inflated ego, the need for praise where praise isn't due, the glorification of non-existent skills."

I would say that this is not in itself an ADD/ADHD manifestation. Whether it's an attempt to deal with a lifetime of perceived inferiority (talking himself up and hoping to bluff everyone) or some other personality "feature" is another matter. My husband is very ADHD but constantly underplays his capability and is very negative about his abilities. Infuriatingly so, but it appears to come from a lifetime of suspecting that he is "not good enough".  Maybe these are two opposing adaptations to the same underlying issue.  Or maybe not. This ADHD stuff when layered on top of the wide spectrum of human personality can all be very perplexing.

Wow, praise and sense of entitlement

Wow, your post is so similar with my DH. He has always told me, "I was born to do something GREAT in the world, and no one has given me the chance to let me do it".  He blames high school teachers for not seeing his "potential" as a genius with a genius IQ. Yes, he DOES have a genius IQ, which is in the 160's, but with his SEVERE ADHD, he hasn't been able to achieve what he believes he is entitled to.

He also blames my parents for not setting him up in business so that he could be a millionaire right now, and blames his father for not sending him to an ivy league college. (and more) My husband DID do something incredible, which was being accepted into the AIR FORCE ACADEMY in Colorado, which only the very few get into. But, when he got there he left after 7 days, because he was SO dumbfounded by what he was required to do, that it sent him into a tailspin. He told me "Nobody knows those things before you go in the military". The things he was talking about are......sleeping outside, eating military food, getting yelled at constantly, having to crawl through mud and junk for basic know....regulator military stuff. He was SHOCKED that he was asked to do those things and blamed everyone else for not telling him about it.

I WAS SHOCKED that he DIDN'T know about military life, because EVERYONE know what happens when you go through basic training. I guess he is unusual in regards to the fact that school was very easy for  him and he got straight A's all through school including college. But, what angers me is that he thought that everyone else who got LESS than him was either "stupid", or "morons" or just "lazy jerks", and he would tell them so. (arrogant) HIs degrees are in teaching (music), and after teaching many years in middle school, high school, college, he's learned that MOST people DON'T GET STRAIGHT A's, and it doesn't make them lazy, stupid or morons. thank goodness.

But, all his life, he's been angry and frustrated because he complains of "never making it"....."never getting ahead"....and "not being where I should be in life". "If I would have only had the CHANCE that other people get.......I would have been able to "make it"."   He STILL won't accept that his ADHD has been a major hindrance in his occupation in life. I have watched him sabotage MANY, MANY things where he could have been promoted, or put in a better position, etc., but he makes enemies by his lack of social graces and not being sensitive to others around him. 

Linsy's picture

so familiar

Yes, my ex too. Obsessed with his IQ, but a complete failure in everything he does because he always expects 'other people' to do all the work. Which he calls delegation. Also the whole thing about expecting others to provide the chances and the luck. His misfortune is that he has two very talented and successful sisters, one of whom was a failure until in her 40s her career suddenly took off. The other one was given an amazing leg up which helps her talent be recognised and become commercially successful. So there he is saying, why not me? Well he doesn't do anything to develop the talents he does have, which doesn't help. And when challenged he retreats into cannabis dependence and becomes more useless than ever. I would feel pity if he wasn't so horrible when challenged. But he is, so I gave up and don't live with him any more. 


I am really intrigued reading your response, as my husband reacts the same way; basically, everyone else magically has gotten a huge hand up and if people would JUST UNDERSTAND WHAT HE HAS TO OFFER, then he could swoop in and solve all their business issues. Even though he has zero experience in what that  might be. 

Case in point - this weekend, he got down about his work history (understandably, since he's been unemployed for most of his life) and starts getting excited about a minimum wage job that he's interviewing for tomorrow that is basically dead end and will end up costing more than he earns. It could be possibly a way into a company that he's been dying to work for, but knowing his work history, it probably won't be (he tends to quit everything). We've got a good arrangement going right now; I make very good money and he's the stay at home dad. It works really well! I totally understand his need to have something of his own, but it always, ALWAYS, ends up being a disaster. 

Anyway, back to the point...he starts complaining about "nobody understands what it is that I do" and "if people would just do what I tell them to do they wouldn't have any problems" and talking about every job he's had, his co-workers email him after he's left or been fired saying that his manager started doing stuff the way he told them after he left and magically everything was fixed and wow they really should have listend to him!

First of all, his job isn't that complicated, and it's really not that hard to understand. It's low-level stuff and he's never moved beyond a certain point; in fact I would say that most of his skill set is completely outdated at this point (I work in generally the same industry so I know what I'm talking about). 

I really don't get the whole mentality of thinking that everyone else is automatically wrong, and that he knows better than anyone else in any field. Really, I don't get it. And building himself up to  be this big misunderstood guru that is just not appreciated.....REALLY don't get it. If anyone has any insights on how to deal with that i would love to hear them!

Linsy's picture

Oh dear!

Yes this is all familiar, the overbearing idea that everyone else is wrong. But I have it too! In my industry, I come up against senior managements as a consultant, and they are not able to accommodate new ideas easily and it is frustrating. But I don't work at a low level, and have many many years experience to offer of full employment all be it often freelance and also many of the ideas I had years ago are now mainstream (which looks similar to your partner above!). It must be common among us partners to wonder if we have ADHD as well in some way, and that is why we are attracted to it in others. I certainly look at myself and wonder whether I have simply developed good coping strategies or something. I have a very low boredom threshold and my mind moves fast, but not in a disorganised way usually unless very tired. I think it is in my birth family as well, but I also think it can skip some siblings? I would like to know more about the genetic patterns of inheritance for ADHD. I am sure there are ADHD families out there....