Recently I feel like the imbalances in our relationship are starting to cause some serious damage that I worry may become irreversible.
I have been with my wife since I was 19 which is nearly 11 years now but recently I feel like my own personal growth is pulling me further away from her. She was diagnosed before we were married and has taken learning about and treating her ADHD very seriously. Although from my perspective her knowledge in the area typically is used to excuse her own negative behaviour and criticize any personal failing of mine instead of coming up with solutions to help manage adhd symptoms. For example “you don’t have any working memory problems so why did you forget to do… “. I feel like there are two sets of rules for interacting in our household. There is the extremely charitable, soft tone, walking on eggshells that is necessary to have a productive discussion with her, all of which goes out the window when it comes to addressing something with me. A lot of the time it feels like she is waiting for me to break one of the rules so she can pounce on it and discount the entire conversation.
Recently she has begun insinuating and suggesting that “I don’t do enough in the relationship” and it is driving me bananas. I feel like she is completely taking for granted all of the things I am currently doing and it makes me feel invisible. This is particularly distressing because it is the opposite of what is going on in all other aspects of my life. At work I am being recognized as a top performer and being fast tracked for promotions (which wasn’t always the case). Physically, despite the pandemic I am in the best shape of my life thanks to a lot of hard work and personal training. It feels very weird that the primary source of negativity in my life right now is my relationship with my wife. I recognize that there is always room to grow and improve but I feel like things are already so out of balance in our relationship that her suggesting that I need to do even more is sort of unbelievable.
Here are some of the ways I am currently contributing to the relationship:
Financial - I am solely in charge of 100% of both of our financial responsibilities. We are currently living in the USA while I am working with a top tech company on a TN visa. She is able to live with me while I work but is not permitted to work as she is considered a dependent on my status. That being said there is nothing preventing her from seeking out and applying for her own TN visa in order to work in the USA. While it is true that there is only a specific list of professions for which TN visas apply, there are multiple professions for which she has the requisite university degree and could qualify for. In the early years after we moved to the US she completed some (approx 10,000$ worth) ADHD specific career counseling and learned a lot about what specific attributes she is interested in a career. One of the primary conclusions was that she requires flexible/part time hours and would not be happy otherwise. This essentially rules out all TN visa employment opportunities as they all would require full time work. I support her in all of her coaching and her journey to learn more about herself but I also recognize that this is a choice. She is choosing not to compromise on her part time requirement and is choosing not to work. This is an incredibly privileged position to be in and I’m grateful to be in a position where I can allow her to make that choice but I don’t feel gratitude from her just entitlement.
Sexual - I have also become responsible for maintaining our sexual relationship. My wife enjoys sex but she does not initiate. It’s sort of like for 99% of time she is asexual and then during sex a switch is flicked and suddlenly she remembers herself and turns back into the woman I fell in love with. She will be incredibly present and responsive and loving. Afterward she tends to say things like “thank you so much, i really needed that” or “we really need to do that more”, or “I’m so lucky to have you, I can’t believe you did x, y, and z for me” but once the afterglow wears off it’s like the switch gets flicked back and we are back to square one again. Suddenly all the warmth is gone and she’s back to treating sex like a chore she puts up with for my benefit.
Persona Growth - During her time in the US I have strived to be 100% supportive of all her and I try to encourage her in whatever endeavors she undertakes. When her ADHD career coaching went past the 6 month limit she had previously set I did not complain, I said “If it is beneficial to you then it is beneficial to me and money well spent”. When she wanted a specific ADHD therapist who was outside our healthcare network and didn’t qualify for the 24 paid sessions through my workplace I did not complain or push back, I said “I trust you to find the right therapist for yourself and if this is who you want I’m on board”. This year when she wanted to start an ADHD coaching education program I didn’t quiz her about future profitability or how we were going to pay the money back, I asked her about what made her excited about it and encouraged her to take the opportunity. No matter what she is getting involved with I am always in her corner.
Chores and pets - My wife takes care of our pets (2 cats and dog) better than a lot of people take care of their children. Growing up her family had lots of animals and a surprising amount of them lived for way longer than those animals typically do. Animals have always been something she is passionate about and this is an area where it is very clear that she is contributing more than I. For the rest of the chores I try to cook at least 3 times a week (I’m pretty good at it and paid for college working in kitchens). I also try to make sure I’m a net positive in terms of cleanliness. I can’t always clean everything but I strive to at least clean up after myself. I’ll be the first to admit that there are definitely times where I fall short, especially when I am super slammed at work with late nights and early mornings. The problem I have with chores is that when I am doing a lot of them I start to realize just how little it actually takes to sort out a lot of our long standing problem areas and it really makes me resent my wife. She has so much more free time than me and yet I’m still the one who has to sort out these household chores.
At this point in time I’m at my wits end. I can’t really deal with all my contributions being erased and I’m certainly not handling the conversations about it well. I think overtime she’s come to take a lot of what I’m offering for granted and I feel like we need to recalibrate. I don’t really know how to do this though. One idea is to completely separate finances. This would mean she would have to move back to Canada which isn’t exactly as extreme as it sounds since we are planning to move back to Canada within the year anyway. My hope would be that after remembering what it is like to need to work to support yourself and understanding that money isn’t just money it’s also hours of your life that you don’t get back, she might be a little bit more appreciative about me supporting us both financially.
If you’ve been in a similar situation I would be really interested about how you rebalanced your relationship.
Thanks for taking the time to read all of that mess.