How do I deal with the effects of his ADD on MY life?

My husband was diagnosed with ADD about a year after we were married, after he lost 6 jobs in a year. He was 45. ADD is not one of the things treated by our local mental health agency. I had to pay for his treatment out of pocket because we had no isurance. He takes meds and seems to understand what is going on, but they don't really help. He's done a lot of things which have endangered me, which I've posted about before.

Now what I'm writing about is, this is apparently as good as it gets and it's not good enough. I can't deal with the consequences.

1. He can't rememberr my birthday. I really don't care but it meant I didn't come up on his insurance when I went to the doctor, so they wouldn't see me. It cost me a day's pay.

2. Our finances are a total mess. We have no heat, and apparently won't all winter.  We owe too much money to pay to get the heat turned back on. When I suggest he try to solve this he just says "What do you want me to do about it?" and blows up if I suggest either he get a second job or we sell something that's mine. 

 I'm angry all the time. Our insurance doesn't cover marriage counseling and we'd have to pay $55 a visit to our local non-profit. (I'd rather put that money toward the heat!) He thinks I should accept that he has ADD and that means he can't keep a job or do housework, and I should be happy because he does love me and we have fun together. I can't seem to do that.

How do I learn to accept that I have no heat and no insurance because of his ADD and not hate him for it? How do I accept the limits his ADD places on my life?

Effect of Husband' ADD - need more info

If you weren't married to him, who would pay the heating bill?  Did you have insurance when you were single?  What is it about your current situation that is different from when you were single?  Did he hold jobs before you got married?  Your financial situation right now is awful...but I'm trying to figure out how you got into it in the first place.  Did you move?  Did you take on a ton of debt that you couldn't afford?  Did you, too, lose your job?

You state your issues as financial, but there are two of you, and he did have some sort of track record before you were married, so I'm having trouble figuring out the best way to comment.  I'm also wondering if the financial aspect of it is the only thing, or if there are other types of disagreements going on.  Perhaps you can provide a bit more information so I can write something worthwhile?



Before I married my husband, I had alimony from my first husband, which of course I lost when I got remarried. I could pay my rent and my heat and provide for my medical needs between that and my jobs. I only got married (as opposed to living together) because he had insurance at his job. When we started dating, he had worked at the same job as me for 6 years, and then got a better job with benefits. Then he started hanging up on customers and got fired. He had 6 jobs in the next year, until I finally figured out he wasn't (just) lazy, but had ADD.  I still work at the same 2 jobs. One I"ve had for 13 years and one for 19 years.

He is finally working now but his job required him to buy a new car and the payments just suck all the life out of us. One car payment would pay the back balance on the heat. But he feels like, at 47, this job is his last chance to have a career  Believe it or not, he works in mental health. He's a peer specialist and he only qualifies for the job because he has ADD. However, we had more disposable income when he worked at Wal-Mart and we didn't have the car payment. But he really would rather have this job than have heat.

I just feel like his ADD runs my life. We can't afford what we need. He never keeps promises. He is no partner to me in running my house or solving our problems and he does things which put me in danger (I have posted about that before). I feel more alone than before I got married. How can I get him to make our family a priority?

Turning on the Heat

Is there anyone in your family or circle of friends who can help you pay the absolute minimum balance to keep the heat on?  Or perhaps a local support group who can help you with the heating bill?  (The local utility here has a program that helps spread out payments over a longer period of time)...

As for your question about making your family a priority.  I suspect that he feels that he is doing that by trying to keep this specific job, which he views as "better" than working at Wal Mart.  A major way that men support their family is by holding certain kinds of jobs.  This isn't just my opinion...if you want perspective on this, go to the library and borrow a copy of "how to improve your marriage without talking about it" by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny.  Also, this book might give you some insight into some of the shame your husband probably feels about his inability to hold a job...worth a look, I think.

Unfortunately, there is no way you can "make" him change his priorities and, as I've said, I think that your priorities may be more aligned than you think conceptually, even if you approach them differently.  So perhaps you can address your loneliness issues from a different there a way to make connections elsewhere?  Perhaps a church?  Perhaps through local groups that share your interests?  I'm not trying to send you away from your husband, but rather to suggest that while he is working through his issues around holding jobs perhaps it would be healthy for you to have other outlets so you don't go crazy.

Also, you should make sure that he understands that there are certain things that you need...and if you aren't getting anything out of this relationship at all you should consider whether or not you wish to remain in it.  I am a proponent of staying married as long as a couple thinks they might have a fighting chance of working things out (and sometimes longer!) but at some point if there is nothing there, then there is nothing there.  I don't have much of an in-depth view of your situation, and I would err on the side of giving him a chance to get himself settled a bit, but please do remain conscious of your own needs.  Don't lose yourself in his problems...

In retrospect, giving up the alimony for the possibility of health care might not have been the best care lasts only as long as the job does, and then the financial reason to get married is gone...perhaps you should also spend some time reflecting upon why you are with this man in the first place.  What types of positives did/does he bring to your life?  Focusing on these things might make getting through the hard times just a little bit eaiser.


Melissa, you've given me some good ideas. I am talking about some very concrete issues. For example, I thought we had the heat problem licked, because someone from his church was going to co-sign for us. But I still would have had to pay some. Then the cable people called and said he had to pay the cable right then or we'd be disconnected. So he did. We couldn't pay both, so now no possiblility of heat til January. Another example, he couldn't find his keys, so he had to take my car and I had to walk. How do I deal with the consequences of the errors he makes because of his ADD? He never has consequences for his behavior, only I have consequences for his behavior.

I agree I should not have married him to get health insurance. But when you are in love, you don't think the person you love is going to betray you by not doing the job he got hired for. I'd never hang up on a customer, so it never occurred to me that he'd think that was a good idea. BUT, I can't undo it now. He refuses to move out of our house, and I used my student loan money to pay for it, so there's no possibility of me getting my own place. And I certainly won't get the alimony back.

The posters on this site seem to be saying you have to lower your expectations in order to be with an ADD person. You just have to know you'll never get supported, you'll never get help with household tasks, etc.  I gave up so much to marry this man, I just don't know how to deal with someone who won't share household tasks, and who never does a thing to consider my needs. We (the non-ADD spouse) can talk til we're blue in the face, but when faced with a choice, they always choose what their ADD tells them to do. They can't think, I have to put my keys somewhere I know so I can work in the morning. They can't think, heat is more important than cable. I know he's not being malicious, he just isn't capable of doing it. How do I keep myself safe from that?

The heat is on!

My husband's retired pastor co-signed for our heat, and his mother paid the balance, so they turned the heat on this afternoon. I have to pay her back when I get paid next week. Hooray!

I am just so frustrated. I wish I had a partner instead of someone I had to take care of. I am scheduled to have surgery in 2 weeks and I have no idea what the house is going to look like while I can't do any housework.

For SueAnn

It's wonderful that others can help, as happened with your heat.

I am worried by your statement "He never has consequences of his behavior, only I have consequences for his behavior."  That sounds so much like a co-dependent relationship...WHY doesn't he have consequences for his behavior?  I'm guessing that you felt it was better for him to get to work than to lose his job over losing the car keys and, also, that you could walk and he couldn't (or could he??)

But never??  Could you not call the cable company and get a refund and cut off the service?  Can you ask him to find his keys every night, the night before (that way he has all the time in the world) because you AREN'T going to lend him your car?

I'm not picking on you.  Really, I'm not.  But the experience I had with my own husband was that I lived the consequences of his actions - each and every day - until I told myself that I was no longer willing or able to do so.  By making him responsible for his own actions and their consequences he will also suffer...not just you.  Obviously, you need to pick your battles carefully.  You don't want him to lose his job...but on other things, I've got to think that you can make a difference by not allowing him to not suffer the consequences.  This is the concept behind "codependence" - and getting away from it - living our lives as if WE are responsible for OURSELF and only ourself, and others are responsible for themselves...we aren't.

Many of the posters on this site would tell you they have lowered their expectations...but it doesn't have to be that way.  To me, a dose of reality is likely to happen in ANY marriage - not just an ADD marriage - and that it can be a good thing over time.  See my blog post on lowering expectations vs. improving them for more on this.

The precarious nature of your financial situation makes it very difficult for you to make some of these changes.  However, you might go talk with your pastor about his view on how you might be able to be more responsible for yourself, less responsible for your husband, and see if he might be able to give you some ideas.  I'm guessing from what you have said that you have a good relationship with your pastor and he might be able to help you with some ideas.

Finally, you might worry about your comment "he isn't capable of doing it".  That is a sign that you will step in to rescue him.  DON'T!  I'm a big believer in being up front with I would just say to him something like "I've gotten in the habit of rescuing you when you make bad decisions or lose things, but I can't do that any more - it's taking too much of an emotional toll on me.  So please understand that you'll be responsible for yourself from now on" then start doing it.  He'll probably "test" you at first (expect those car keys might end up missing...and think ahead of time about what your response will be if/when it happens - is there any reasonable alternative to just handing him yours?) or he'll spend some money he doesn't really have.  What should/would the consequence for HIM be if you weren't protecting him?

Good luck with it, and let us know your progress.


Thanks, Melissa, as always you have given me things to think about.

I do feel like the consequences of his behavior fall on me. He cooks (by his choice, he enjoys it) and I've never served him a nail. Nor have I ever dropped a piece of furniture on his foot and caused him likelong pain. I don't see how I could have protected myself from these consequences of his ADD except by avoiding him.

I do not belong to my husband's church, I am agnostic. The person who co-signed for us is not the current pastor, but a man who retired from that church and now just attends as a member. He referred us to a church-based counseling center, and we had some success with a marriage counselor there, but she got another job and dropped us like a hot rock. They can't refer to anyone else that we can afford to go to. His current pastor told me a long time ago that "John will yes you to death" but then not keep his word. I have not found him helpful in improving my husband's behavior.

Yes, the reason I let him take my car is because his job requires driving, not just to it, but driving to visit various clients. And he could have lost his job if I had not let him take my car. We moved here because I could walk to work if I had to. (For some reason, I've had really bad luck with cars.) And I don't think the cable company would have given me the money back for service we had already received.

I think I do understand about being co-dependent. I am just plain dependent, as I don't make much money while in school, and medical insurance is never offered in the industry in which I work. His failure to keep up the insurance hurt me, not him, as he was able to solve any medical/dental issues he had before we got married.

My husband had coaching by phone and I contacted her today. She does not think he's getting the right medication, or enough, or something. We both filled out Dr. Amen's checklist after he was taking medication, and he still came up highly ADD. She said she'd never seen a couple where both spouses scored the ADD spouse's ADD exactly the same.  He stopped after the initial sessions, without discussing it with me, for financial reasons.

My big fear right now is that he won't be willing/able to run this house while I am recovering from surgery. I wanted to have this 3 years ago when he lost his first job with benefits, and I don't want to wait because of the impermanent nature of jobs for people with ADD. Also, it's semester break, which fits in well. But what if he won't do the dishes or the laundry, when I won't be able to? The coach thinks unless he gets his brain functioning better with more or different medication,  I can not count on him for this.



During Surgery

I guess I would say about the dishes and surgery - the more important of the two is that the surgery get completed and that you have a fast recovery.  Having dirty dishes around is annoying, but not life threatening in any way.  Your worrying about whether or not they get done only hurts you - it won't affect his behavior in any way whatsoever, but it will affect your health.  Therefore I recommend that you let your concerns about the housework while you are out go.  When you get back, continue to let it go.  Focus on getting the rest you need to heal after surgery.  If the dishes pile up, so what?  Eventually, if he needs a dish, he'll clean it.  Presumably he'll also clean it for you if he's serving you something while you are laid up.

You're smart to do the surgery now while you can...that's the way to take care of yourself!  Best of luck with it.

healing from surgery

Melissa, If he's not going to wash dishes, do you really think he's going to "serve" her something while she's healing? To the one having surgery: Girl, be real, make meals for yourself ahead of time and microwave them as you need them. Think of anything else you could possibly need while out of commission and take steps to have it there within reach for yourself. Been there...done that....


great idea about the meals!  (If you don't have time, stock up on some good microwave meals from the freezer case...)

As for "serving",  I wasn't thinking something fancy...maybe a sandwich or something.  Even in the lean times my husband was better in a crisis - like when I was sick he did actually get me something if I asked for it.  That's all I was suggesting, not that he would think ahead of time about what he might be able to do for her.  But you may be right - her husband might not be responsive then, either.  Each person is different.


Husband not Helping

I have been reading the posts between Melissa and Sueann.  I have been married 12 years and learned the first year that my husband is ADD.  It's a long story, but at this point, I have a few questions:

What do you suggest I do when my husband's only accomodation to his ADD is taking Adderall occasionally at work?  Will a coach help him?  Will a coach be of more help to me?

(My husband loves to talk with people.  We have had lots of nice, meaty conversations with counselors).

What is a good healthy way to deal with his lack of follow through.  Ex:  He said last week he would take our son to wrestling last night so he could chat with the coach, etc.  Of course he forgot, but I decided not to be the hovering mother so I didn't say anything, and furthermore I was sick.  Ever since then I've had conversations in my head as to what to say.  This kind of stuff happens constantly.  We discuss, he agrees, he forgets, or he forgets and I remind.  Sometimes I remind frequently and he still forgets.  It looks passive-aggressive to an outsider.

Another thing that is so hurtful to me is the fact that past conversations don't seem to link with today or tomorrow.  For example yesterday he said he was going to try and go to the library to get books for our son. Today I said did you go to the library and he answered in a way that told me he didn't even remember saying he was going to the library.  This is such an insignificant thing, but the bottom line is I feel so lonely.  Friendships and intimacy for me are built on many conversations all linked together so that we understand each other, know each other and can predict the future with that person. 

Today I said call John and see if they can meet at Pizza Hut, then call me back.  He didn't, so I called and said?  Did you or the ADD forget to call me back?  His reply of course.... "the ADD".

Melissa, do have an actual list somewhere on this website of things you said that changed the way he responded.  I'm not talking conversations.  They don't help.  I'm talking in-the-moment ways of handling the forgetfulness, self-centeredness, non-communicative,spacey head-in the sky distance that makes me feel so lonely.

Balance act






I really apologize, but I'm going to have to respond to this after the new year.  Don't have the time now to give it a fair answer.  In the meantime, maybe others can provide you with ideas.