Overhwhelmed and don't know how to cope

I'm 46, and my boyfriend and I have been together for over six years. He is the most kind, good-hearted, intelligent man -- and he loves me so much, as I do him. We met when he remodeled my house and have been together ever since. As I got into the relationship, I found out that he was somewhat of a hoarder -- seriously, you couldn't walk in his house, it hadn't been cleaned in forever. I have since learned that he saves everything, doesn't pick up after himself and has an entire backyard full of dead cars, scraps of building materials -- you name it -- all stuff that he thinks he'll use one day. Despite the fact that he is a master carpenter, his beautiful 1920s bungalow is falling apart and has never been renovated. I also came to find out that he had never paid income taxes -- having started out in his teens working for cash in the construction trade, he could never get organized enough to pay taxes and once he hadn't paid for a few years, well, then the whole situation was completely overwhelming. He was constantly getting his electricity cut off or his phone cut off or having to drive back from an out of town job to pay his car insurance (he has no credit cards because he can't manage them and gets into debt).

Of course, I didn't see the severity of the problem. I thought love conquers all. I have a well-paying, stable job, my own beautiful house. We bought a vintage travel trailer to renovate, Paul thought it would only take a couple of months. We bought some land together... with the idea that in our partnership I could purchase the property and he could fix it up. Eventually, we'd have some real estate to support us in our retirement years.

He'd been in therapy for 10 years, but still was facing many of the same problems and obstacles. After a couple of years he was diagnosed with ADD. Of course, I'm a take action kind of person, whose work life depends on me being organized and able to approach things logically and step by step. I thought that if he gave me all his money, I could make sure all our bills got paid. We merged our phone accounts, and our auto insurance. I made all the payments on the properties. (He still had his house)

Then, the nature of his job hit home. Construction is a stop, start business. You have a job, then you don't. It takes work to promote yourself and line up work so that you can have a new job when an old one ends. Needless to say, Paul didn't have the skills necessary to maintain steady work.

I won't go into all the details, but we've ended up in a bad place. And I am as culpable as he. Year after year, I've ended up paying his property taxes ($7000/year), back mortgage payments ($2,000/month), etc. -- talk about co-dependent. I'm overfunctioning to his underfunctioning. While still being responsible for my house, and our other properties. Yet none of our long-term projects and dreams have come to fruition. He can't seem to get it together to make progress on any of them. Meanwhile, our vacation home (more of a shack really, we bought a serious fixer-upper) has become a junkyard -- filled with dirty laundry, trash, filthy, and the beautiful view of the high desert is obstructed by piles of odds and ends of building materials. We bought it with the idea that we'd rent it. But after 4 years, the roof still hasn't been replaced (even though it needs to be quite desperately), no renovations have been done. And he still hasn't paid any income taxes. He has no health insurance (but smokes two packs of cigarettes a day). It is as though he lives in an alternative universe where no normal rules apply. And he simply doesn't seem to understand that he can't actually afford his house. I even paid for his therapy with an ADD specialist -- until I couldn't afford it anymore.

He's at a tough point in his life. His building job ended in the middle because the client ran out of money (the bad economy). Then a friend backed out of renting his house after he spent two months working 12/day trying to get it ready for her. Then the new job he had lined up fell through because the woman was worried about the economy. I want to be supportive, but don't know how to do it. I know he feels so much shame that he is in this position. I told him a couple of months ago that I would give him the proceeds of a couple of old cars that we had to sell and then he was on his own with his house. He understood, but I know that he's feeling abandoned a bit.

I'm at the peak of my career, yet broke. I can't afford to travel, I can't even enjoy the beautiful property we bought. My dream of what our life together would be like, a partnership where we each contributed equally in our own way, is dying. I think I am going to have to sell two of our properties.

How do I "re-separate" our finances? How do I say 'Honey, I know that you have no work, but I'm not going to pay for your phone, car insurance"? How do I let him know that he can't ignore the tax situation forever?

How do I get him to remove his stuff from our vacation house, so that I can enjoy it. The reason the place in the desert is so energizing and peaceful for me is that it is a big, empty chaos-free place -- yet now, it's so full of stuff and trash that I break down and sob every time I go there. And how do I negotiate with him to ensure that there aren't constant broken promises (good intentions, the road to hell ...)?

How can I be loving and have boundaries? I want him to look for ways to mitigate the effects of the ADD on both himself and on me (organizing strategies, tools, whatever works). But it doesn't seem like he ever gets there. Just the same behavior, resulting in the same results. And he works so hard, so long, and it seems like he never makes any progress. I know he's exhausted and frustrated too. And, I know that he hates being dependent on me -- and I am pretty sure that I've come to be a crutch.

He's caring, kind, loving, and devoted. I want us to grow old together. I have great compassion for him, but I need help. We have to find a better way to live.


To kmcrenshaw

  I am so sorry for you. If there is one thing I have learned about living with someone who has ADD it is that you have to have a very clear idea of what you can live with and what you can't, then you make it clear to him. I actually typed a list of "what I would like to have in a husband" and then another list of "what I need in a husband." The second list of "needs" are deal breakers, if he can not fulfill those needs I can not stay in this marriage. At least this way we BOTH know what is expected and what the consequences are if those needs are not met. You are right though in that you should not be enabling him. Maybe a counselor that you can see together? Or, maybe an ADD coach? It is expensive, I know because my husband (ADD) and I go every week, but I look at it as an investment in our marriage and in our parenting. There is nothing more important if you want to stay in the relationship. Just my two cents, I hope things get better for the two of you.

re: Overhwhelmed and don't know how to cope

You said, "How do I "re-separate" our finances? ... I'm not going to pay for your phone, car insurance? How do I let him know that he can't ignore the tax situation forever? ... How can I be loving and have boundaries? ... I know he's exhausted and frustrated too."

That is the question I am grappling with as well. I recognize I will have no financial security with him but I want to regain what little financial security I had before him. I hope that doesn't make me sound more selfish than I mean for it but selfishness and the need to take care of myself is necessary.

How do you re-separate finances and responsibilities in a loving way? I hope more people who have successfully done so, will answer.

Thanks for your original question and for the reply. I hope I have submitted this correctly. It's my first post.





Overwhelmed and don't know how to cope

I hear you and I do feel your pain.  I have done the same thing, but we've been married for many years.  The ADD diagnosis is new and though it clarifies just about everything, it has deflated any hope of change that my life will ever get better. He's a brilliant guy, endless potential, great ideas, works really hard, long hours (on the things that don't move toward our goals).  Our roof leaked for years before it got fixed and the huge gaping holes in the sheet rock are still there--constant reminders of massive dysfunction.  We too have acreage in the country--our retirement plan and the investment property that is supposed help me retire early (real translation: sometime before I die).  I'm the only income, I have a good job and decent income, but it is all taken up in mortgage payments.  He would not file the taxes (many years behind) so we could not refinance and ended up with a private lender that reminds me a little of a gentle version of Tony Soprano.  All of our property taxes are so far behind that if we had to pay them today we would be unable to do so, our (my) credit is maxed out, my credit rating has gone from excellent to I-don't-want-to-look.  The place in the country that was really tranquil has moved into the deconstruction phase of endless mess and unfulfilled promise.  A place where visitors and helpers once came to participate in the dream, now come to provide moral support to me---God bless my dear friends. I've been ready to leave him a couple of times and each time he's pulled himself together....that old adrenalin fix and his fear of abandonment.  I'm really struggling to find my place in all of this, the inner place that has peace no matter what is done to my outer-self and world.  I've given up gardening, where I had found a heart, a peace, it was undone too many times with his projects or ideas.  I'm working on getting a backbone, but the blow back and pain (and the chance that he will just sleep more or disappear to a bookstore) is what I have to weigh against.  I have not figured out my place yet and I know that I am much to blame (for staying, for not believing in myself---yes it was him and not me---I'm 52 and am now understanding that how a person treats me speaks of that person's character and not mine).  As for a way to disconnect from financial things, I have no idea anymore.  It's so entrenched and depends on his doing his part, that even a divorce would never be finished, just one more big de-construction.  There is no way anyone around me could truly fathom the pain of much of my life.  I look normal to most: fairly happy, good humor, responsible, resourceful, friends, but deep inside I'm frightened and lonely and in despair.  The layers and layers of dysfunction in my home and marriage and finances leave me no soft place.  

Wow. This really hits home

Wow. This really hits home for me. I have been married for 5 years. I have a 4 year old and another baby due any second. I have been struggling with my husbands ADD since day one. I totally fell for the dreamer in him and believed he would truly make things happen. It has been financial hell ever since. I can't afford all his mistakes anymore. I've fixed his credit, just to ruin mine. I don't know what to do any more. Being married to a man with ADD will make you lose your mind. How do you cope with it? It's not a gambling or drug problem. It's something that you can't do anything about and it's just something they are born with. There is not a day I don't wake up wanting to cry for not seeing the warning signs BEFORE marrying him. Now I have 2 kids to raise in this hell and I feel totally trapped. I wish all you ladies peace in your life and I pray that God grants you some sort of relief before this life is over.

in reply to Wow. This really hits home.

Thank you for wishing us all peace.  I wish us all peace also.  The counseling isn't going so well but I am willing to keep chugging along.  I am right there with you on the wanting to cry part and frequently do.  I don't know.  I sometimes feel like it is all my fault and I am the crazy one, you know?  It's like no one else really sees it because they are not with him every day.  Thanks again for your good wishes and I wish you peace.

the solution I found for separating finances

Since realizing and accepting the fact that I will never have the involved partner that I always wished for, I grieved that loss. I stay because he is a gentle man with a good heart who I know would be different if it didn't require too much effort :).  This acceptance also transfers to dealing with a partner who can't handle his finances. Since I pay all the bills, I opened a new account that he can't access, since he was using our joint account to pay his business bills (or his freaking motorcycle payment) when he didn't make enough. He does not have access to this new account and I didn't care if it made him mad or not. I wanted to  mitigate the risk to my son and me as much as possible. Although I'm devoted to my marriage, I won't let his shortcomings sabotage my son's future or my financial health. It sounds harsh, but expecting me to endure the financial irresponsibility is also harsh, so I chose this route. I'm sure it won't work for everyone.

I also "force" him to pay for things that I am comfortable doing with out. If he wants cable, he pays for it --- as well as some home improvement expenses that he wants that I think are so far down on the priority list it's ridiculous. I've come to appreciate any contribution he can make -- whether it's financial or task-based. Since his business is floundering and he can't contribute to the household expenses, he pays for daycare. If he ultimately can't pay these bills and loses the service, then he will have to deal with the consequences. I know he would never put our son in danger directly, so I believe he would quit his work before leaving our 3-yr-old alone. He also pays all his car expenses; I literally put his motorcycle on craigslist and sold it; he pays for his entertainment and exercise. If he ever offers to pay for something or whips out his credit card, I NEVER say no. I also never say no to his offers to do anything around the house. As you can see, I hold him accountable at every turn and never let him off the hook by saying, "no honey, it's ok. I can do it." or "I can pay for it." I'm not sure it helps his ADD at all but I'm over doing what I believe is essentially enabling. You can't help someone who doesn't  help himself. These efforts are not the way I envisioned my marriage, but they do help me cope, however.

As my son gets older, I hold him accountable and will not let him off the hook in order to teach responsibility. He doesn't have ADD but I also don't want him to be attracted to someone who needs saving. I will encourage him to have romantic relationships with only responsible people and discourage relationships with those who have big debt or don't follow through or let him down. Those are all things I turned a blind eye to and look where I am now.

I kept my finances separate

I kept my finances separate also and was the bill payer in my relationship. It made him angry so I too gave him bills to pay that I wouldn't care if they got cut off. Those were in his names. Things like the landline phone, because I have a cell phone.

I felt terrible about doing this at first, but after watching him rack up terrible debt, twice, I had to protect myself.  I never put my name on a loan with his. His name was not on the mortage or deed. I had to be sure that if he did it a third time, I'd be okay.

There was life insurance to pay off the house if I died, and he was beneficiary in my will. Same from his end.  We were never legally married, although together for 12 years, so I was saved a lot of the financial backwash from his poor decisions.

We had separate car loans and credit cards.

Our standard of living was geared toward my salary, not our combined incomes. Which was good because when he decided to leave, it didn't hurt me financially.

But it was very sad to have to protect myself from the person I love, and I admit it contributed, along with so much else about ADD/ADHD to wearing down my feelings toward him, from love and trust to love and caution. 

I read all this stuff here about negotiating and coaches, therapists, rules, and it is so much work. I did my best but it wore me out. Now I am glad it's over and I have peace again. I'd rather be alone than be parenting an adult partner.

my partner is exactly the

my partner is exactly the same.  i find that if i throw or give away what he doesn't need or never uses on the sneaky he forgets about and never notices.  If I ask him if I can get rid of something he kicks up an an enormous fuss so I just deal with it without telling him.  I am talking old cardboard boxes to appliances we have purchased, chargers to phones that don't exist anymore,  things that are obviously broken ect.