I am six months out of a 10 year marriage, and a nearly 12 year relationship, with someone with ADD. A huge part of my healing has been sorting out what had become of those two eager people who so loved each other 12 years ago. How did they end up living as they did?
My ex is the one with ADD. We used to joke about it but it was no laughing matter. Like everyone else, we had conflict over household chores and no matter how many plans we came up with to divide tasks, his didn't get done. We finally hired someone to clean our house and that helped a lot. But that didn't address the daily chores. I'd come home from work to find a sink full of dishes, or see him come down from his office with days worth of dishes, and pile them on the counter above the dishwasher, and go back upstairs. I'd stand there and be furious because I knew who was going to load those. Me. But if I said anything, i was a nag. I wasn't giving him a chance to be an adult.
I got cast as the mother very early on in this relationship, a role I never wanted. I chose not to have kids, so finding myself in a relationship with someone who seemed so childlike was terribly difficult for me. Stupid stuff. To me, it looked like laziness. He'd do a project, then put everything away except one thing. And that one thing could sit there for years. Never able to complete things all the way.
I had to take over the bill-paying so that they would get paid. He had creditors calling on and off for years. Once his truck was repossessed out of my driveway (before we were married). I'd never even known someone who had a vehicle repossessed before. He was chronically in financial trouble. Business deals that were clearly bad investments seemed like the key to riches, and good money would be thrown away and debt racked up. I learned to protect myself from his business deals and kept my money separate and my name off any loans or credit cards with his. I felt guilty for that, because aren't couples supposed to have joint credit cards, or both be on the mortage? I felt like we were failing as a couple because in our case, the credit situation was so uneven. I have a great credit score and his has been absymmal all the time we were together, the direct result of poor decisions made during hyper-focused times.
He pursued me in the beginning, and as Melissa writes, being courted by someone with ADD - being the focus of their hyperfocus - is intoxicating. I was told I was the love of his life. I was it for him. Over the years I'd hear all the time how amazing I was. How our life just kept getting better and better. How we were the lucky ones. How he wanted to give me the moon and stars. He bought me lovely gifts. Diamonds. So sincere and loving. I felt very lucky to be loved by him.
Yet there was the everyday stuff of our life, where I was the only one in 7 years to, twice a year (spring and fall), make a pile ouf branches by the road for the town to mulch up. One winter we had a huge ice storm. Dozens of limbs broke and fell. I moved them all, with no help. Not once. I was the one to shovel the sidewalk and mow the lawn 95% of the time. He never got around to taking a turn, unless somebody was coming to visit, then I'd be hurt that he'd do it for strangers, but not to help us.
14 jobs/careers in 11 years. He'd quit them without telling me. Just announce it and be so excited because he was now going to build this amazing business that would make him rich. He'd work 12-16 hour days, 7 days a week, then complain that we weren't spending time together - that was my fault, you see, because he'd come downstairs at 11 p.m. on a work night (for me, the one with the job) and want to be together. I'd say no, it was late and I was tired, and I'd hear that I was selfish and he'd be pouty and hurt.
If I asked for help, he wouldn't give it when I needed it. I thought it was a game, that because I asked, he had to make me wait. Now I think it was perhaps just part of the ADD - some idea he had that he'd do it "later". But later rarely came and I did it myself.
I felt like I did everything, was responsible for everything. I was the stable one. Before me, he'd never been with anyone for more than a year.
We both knew he had ADD, and he refused medication. He refused to read anything about it. He thought he could manage it, and perhaps in his world, it looked managed. To me, it was just craziness. Chronically late. Doing things for strangers ahead of things for me.
In the 7 years we lived in this house, he never fully unpacked his things. His office was a nightmare of stacked boxes. Bags and bags of paper to recycle "someday". Often he wouldn't open his mail for weeks at a time. When he left, he left behind 10 bags of paper, amongst a truck load of other stuff because he doesn't finish things. He left it for me, just like the dirty dishes...
Five years ago, he painted the office and never removed the blue tape. Only after he was gone did I realize, now that the clutter was out of the way, that he had never done the trim painting either - where you paint with a brush along the wall where it runs up to the ceiling, and at the bottom of the wall where it meets the floor. He just rolled the center and left the rest unpainted. The paint was still in the basement. I had the trim paint done in 20 minutes. But for him, those kinds of details seemed like it was going to take hours and he just didn't have time for it because he had to work on getting rich.
I was one who bent over backwards. If I knew then what I know now, I hope I'd make a different choice - like to run! But instead, I tried to honor my commitment to our relationship. I did love him. I tried to accept him for who he was and love him anyway. I let a lot slide. I didn't complain because I'd get anger and defensiveness back from him, and "you don't treat me like an adult" back and I just got tired of it.
I lived a separate life most of the time, while he'd be upstairs in his office, laser-focussed on the next great business, while our life fell apart around us. He got a dog and never walked it because that would take time away from his work.
Yet I found ways to be happy because I am a resilient person. I wonder if there is a "type" that people with ADD are attracted to? Someone who is stable and can provide an environment for ADD living? Would be curious to know.
With him, there were also periods of terrible depression when the latest job or business didn't work out as he envisioned. Anything had about an 18 month shelf life with him - except for our relationship. It lasted nearly 12 years, and then the depression set in again over the winter. I expected him to quit the job he'd gotten, working from home - the job that was the answer to his prayers so he could work at home in his pajamas with his dog.
Instead, I was told he had tried for five years to get me to care about him and he was done. He moved out within weeks and left the state.
And with him went all the negativity. All the clutter. All the chaos. Yes, I was heartbroken. I miss many parts of my old life. First thing I noticed coming in from work is that the house was as I left it. No dishes piled in the sink. There isn't laundry sitting in the washing machine from 3 days earlier. The house is clean and I know where everything is. My household income was cut in half but I am making it on my money.
It has taken months to realize that the story I was told about why he left was just that - a story. I'd gotten so used to being accused of being a nag, of having to have things my way, of not letting him be an adult, that I had stopped questioning these statements and had fallen into the habit of trying to do better so he wouldn't feel that way.
Now I am finding resources like this site, where I read about my life, and how others have lived with the chaos. How they have suffered as I did. Tried and tried. Coped. Managed. And how pointless that all is if the person with ADD won't take responsibility for their illness.
I am a good and loving person. I have so much to give. I hope to find love again, with someone who is an equal to me, not a problem to try to manage. Now that I am free from the pain of living with someone who does not see the world as I do and never will, I realize how exhausting that truly was.
My heart goes out to those still living under those untenable conditions. Just know that you can be happy again on your own. I am finding life to be exciting and wonderful. No more chaos and criticism. No more mood swings and magical thinking. My life feels like my life again - like how I felt in those happy years before I fell in love with him. I do not regret that love, but I wish I had known then what I was dealing with. My part in that is that it was embarassing to be living that way. And out of loyalty to him, that I didn't want other people to know how truly scattered and irresponsible he truly was.
Those of you who have found this site and have a partner who wants to work on the relationship, who is willing to take responsibility for his problem, consider it a blessing. And those of you, like me, who are out of the relationship now, take heart. Life is good and you will heal. I'm still on my healing journey and I welcome any comments about this post.