Separation and the dependent ADHD spouse

In the interest of my mental and physical health I have decided that I need to care for myself rather than spend all my time supporting my partner.  I am emotionally and physically exhausted and can relate to almost all of the non-ADHD spouses.  I am just going to talk business here since describing the details will just make me more frustrated with what I have lived through thus far.  I am the breadwinner, my husband barely works and only on his own "projects" selling woodworking pieces here and there - but of course the start up costs have been way more than he has ever made.  He has always worked, but not at the same thing and he usually self destructs, etc.   (see I am starting to ramble with the details already).  Anyhow, he has no money saved and no steady job.  If I make him leave he will have no place to go, no family lives near either of us. I am the sole person on our mortgage and pay all the bills, including his. We have one son, who he takes to school and picks up (toddler so he does not take a bus).  Originally our son was only supposed to be at school half days, but my husband just left him in school until 4pm each day (pick up is 11:30am) after about a month (we pay for each extra hour and it is fine with the school).  So my husband lived under the guise of "watching our son all day" as the reason he couldn't get anything done until I caught on.  My husband's original job was supposed to be remodeling our house (75% finished and he does have those skills) but he eventually became bored and moved onto something else.  I just moved out of my dining room and into an actual bedroom a month ago. (again rambling).    To an outsider, my husband looks like the stay-at-home dad who is taking care of the house and our son while I work, but in reality he sucks money, does no household work, does not want to get a regular job to contribute to the family, and barely cares for our son (an hour or two a day, cause he practically runs out of the house once I get home to "work" on his latest money making project and does not come inside until ~11pm or so). 

My questions are: How do you expect someone to leave who has nothing (his own fault) and is totally financially depended on you?  He is my son's father and I don't want to make him leave high and dry (he has maxed out all his credit cards), but I have NO money to give him because we live paycheck to paycheck due to his foolish spending.  Is is possible to do an in-house separation?  I am not dependent on him at all financially, but am not cold hearted.  Or should I just make him fend for his own and hope that he can figure it out?   

If anyone has had experience with being the breadwinner and making a spouse leave, please chime in.  Others are of course welcome.  This is such a sticky situation for me.

My situation is opposite

I am not the breadwinner, but I want my husband to move out for a while.  He earns the household income and that's about it.  Everything else he does is because I ask him to or remind him to.  I recently bought one of those assemble yourself bookcases.  He put it together without me having to ask and thought I should have been jumping for joy.   Meanwhile, laundry and dishes pile up and the bathrooms are disgusting.  Priorities!

He has no family around either.  I want to stay in our home with our kids.  Life is a lot easier without him around (he has gone on a couple business trips and it was nice!).  I do not think an in-house separation would work for us.

I have torn thoughts on your

I have torn thoughts on your situation: 1) he should/would still provide for you since you are not the breadwinner and you are the caretaker of your kids - so in a way you are lucky (that word is used super loosely here because none of us are really lucky here-quite the opposite) because at least you are legitimately the caretaker of the house and children and that is highly recognized in a separation.  2) it still sucks to be dependent on someone else for money since that can trap a person in a bad situation or cause feelings of helplessness even though you do more than your fair share of the work.  If my husband was the breadwinner instead of me I think I would have left awhile ago and let the chips fall where they may.  Maybe that sounds weird, but when I went to see lawyers previously they indicated that my "caretaker" husband would need to be pursuing a job and my son would have to be in full-time school in order for me to get fair custody and not pay my husband undue alimony.  Now don't get me wrong, I believe in alimony if deserved, but not for someone only posing as a caretaker (but really does not take care of our child more than me, leaves me to do all household chores, and spends all his time working on his next big money-making idea  - he even forgot to feel the cats when I went away on business for a few days!!!)  My being the breadwinner was a negative for me in many ways I never imagined. 

I have seen it said 1000

I have seen it said 1000 is amazing what they can manage to do for themselves when they have no choice.

Living together separately

I've never seen that work. In fact it seems to increase circular patterns. Both seem to stick to the original boundaries, then start to feel guilty and since there's no "out of sight out of mind" so to speak....the magnetism to each other will once again become natural, then you will probably revert to where you are at now. I am NO expert but vie tried that myself. I ended up setting a time limit for him to save....I was reasonable...stuck to my guns, DID cohabit ate for a short time...then away he went. Sherri is SO SOoooo right. You would be amazed what they CAN do when there's no other option. For me, that fueled and reaffirmed my decision....if he really did care or love me...then that mentality and attitude of "no other option" should have been inserted with respect to our relationship and family....long ago.

Thanks for all your

Thanks for all your comments.  I do think you are correct that an in-house separation will not work.  We were supposed to try it 8 months ago, but then he turned into super charming husband for about 3 months and my faith returned in him for the most part, then he went gradually back to his "normal" self and now I just can't go back to the last 8 years of misery.  Once he showed his good side for those months, it started to really screwed with my head when he reverted back.  But also I didn't fall for his lies anymore and have engaged in his chaotic life a lot less.  I think I will have to plan this similarly to Displacedhelp in that I will give him a set amount of time to save and then be out.  I actually did that to my sister when she was 21 and totally mooching off of me.  Side story: I gave her a month and told her she would get $800 at the end of the month to move out to cover one month's expenses.  She was actually out in 3 weeks, got 2 jobs, and has been okay on her own ever since (no hard feelings and we are super close now).  In the meantime I think I am just going to coexist with him.  Tonight I was pretending that I was a single mom and things were going pretty well with me and my son.  I think I just realized while writing this that I am actually already on my own and have been for quite awhile. are strong. I are strong. I too am a single is never easy and I was never under any misconceptions that it would be. I was a single mom before my last relationship....and JUST like you said: the charming came out when it needed to (well NOT when it needed to but when he KNEW he had to pull out all the stops and that SHOULD have been from the beginning) when you were at your end...once you get a taste of that and realize it COULD be that way and they are making that choice....I don't think there's any turning back. Despite being a single parent....again I am no expert....but you will have such a release and sense of self return in a rush...and that will sure be positively progressive! You will definitely feel guilt, and sometimes second guess....but my bets are on it being easier for you alone and with your son. What a difficult choice and road for all of us...but I certainly look forward to hearing what a new world you'll experience with open eyes and clarity of who you are, what you need and essentially deserve. Your son no different. You are definitely in my thoughts. My ex is still in touch....just this afternoon he texted: how are you feeling? took a whole lot for me not to be cruel (from all the lies, mean and hurt he bestowed upon me) to not say: actually I am feeling worth something; great; like a weight has been lifted. Instead I chose not to respond....why open a door I closed? I am brilliantly happy now....and every single day, the sun shines a bit're in my thoughts!


If you do go through with a separation, your goals have to be pretty clear/intentional upfront.  We have been separated for nearly 3 months now, and I am living in an apt. while he lives in our house.  I can say that for me personally, the separate houses has saved my sanity.  In the first few weeks, I felt a great sense of relief.  Not to say it hasn't been tough, but I have now had the time to pursue MY LIFE without the constraints of a marriage or without having to constantly feel like I'm saving a marriage.  It also took "the pressure" off of me and my husband.  From my perspective, decisions he has made in these 3 months have been HIS decisions---I have not been there to put structure in place, suggest things, (ie in his mind CONTROL him).  He cannot blame me for the decisions he has made.  I have been able to step out of my role and when we have conversations I can more easily see what's coming and when (ie poison arrows of blame).  And, I can better interpret what he's really trying to say.

That's not to say there isn't blame still, anger still, defensiveness still.  But I don't have to face it on a daily basis.  I would strongly suggest having a 3rd party help set up a separation plan.  This way, there are no miscommunications of expectations and plans.  You can feel like you're in limbo and cannot move forward if you don't have someone helping you.  And, as with any situation, it takes both partners committing to an end result.

Reading your story really hit

Reading your story really hit home with me.  I have only recently within the last year begun to suspect that my husband has ADHD.  Of course, he insists the problem is mine.  I had been a single mother for nearly 10 years prior to our marriage.  I am still a single mother.  I have been trying to convince myself we could just live in the same house together, and I could just take a double dose of compassion, but toll it's taking on my health as well as the poor role model being played out for my kids has convinced me that I am only kicking the can down the road.  I think the question we have to ask ourselves is can we continue to live like this, assuming that nothing will change.

mom will save the day

My DH has long said that "if anything ever happened to us" he would go right back home to his parents who live across the country. His mother would say "poor baby!" And welcome him back under her roof while she consoled him. I guess that sounds bitter. She's a good lady who loves her sons the best way she knows how, unfortunately its enabling to his behaviors. Anyway if I dropped a bomb on him and told him I was moving out, he'd be on the phone in a hot minute to have her buy a plane ticket for him. If I talked to him first and gave him the option to move out instead, he'd be on the phone in a hot minute to have her buy a plane ticket for him. Either way our chances for reconciliation at that point would be handicapped by the distance and parental interferance. I consider a seperation pretty permanent in my case. Im not really sure what would happen to him, but I know he wont go hungry.

Sometimes, you have to take

Sometimes, you have to take that leap of faith that things will happen as they have to happen. Distance, parental interference, life stresses, money arguments... All those can play a role in separating two people during a reconciliation BUT they are not necessarily the end-all to a relationship when both people want to reconcile. If he is not at that point (ie wants to go back to a "safe" environment back to mom).. let him if you are at the point of needing better boundaries in your relationship. Gather your own strength and support in the meantime with the understanding that whether things work out or not- you need to be also in a happy and safe place ( with or without him). Hopefully things will turn around but you cant force someone to do something they dont want to do. You must care for yourself and try to find the strength to let him find his way (no matter how painful that is). You still will talk, you can still connect but it has to happen under conditions you both feel comfortable with (and dont be surprised if he doesnt stay with mom for the long haul...).

makes sense

What you say makes sense. I do tend to think in terms of either A or B and I still haven't learned that most times its C, or D or E--something I never thought of. :) I believe I have accepted that things may work out or not, but I do have some fear over the outcome of all this: fear of his anger and fear of the emotional fallout in myself. Which is odd to hear me describe myself as such, since I am normally a strong, can-do person, just not in the way of emotional strength apparently. You are right, the consequences of doing what's good and healthy for me are out of my control. I struggle with knowing when the point of unhealthy has come. Its different for everyone I suppose.

Dont be so tough on yourself-

Dont be so tough on yourself- it is a bitter pill to swallow. When you love someone, chances are you never figure that you would have to draw these lines. But it helps to try to be optimistic while digging deep to try to figure out WHAT as a bare minimum, makes you feel safe. The bar on that one keeps changing for me a little but surprisingly, there is a very real limit to what I can take (for my sake and for the sake of my kids). Still it is scary, lonely, and heart wrenching. I am finding strength in friends, and reaching out to God to try to keep sane, along with occasional counseling sessions with a great therapist that only I go to.

ask hubby to leave?

Some people try "in house separations" - if you are going to do this you will need to have some very clear rules that a mediator can help you create.  For example, can he walk into your bedroom without knocking?  How will you split the bills?  Can either of you date?  Who gets to "decide" who can go out and who stays home with your child?  Can either of you go out with your son without the other?  Do you have to notify each other?  What are your goals for a separation?  How do you know when you've succeeded?  How will your finances be handled?

That's just the beginning of the list.  Some of these would be easier to envision if you weren't living in the same house (you would figure out where your son would live and what the "visitation" rules were, for example).

I tend to agree with the poster who suggests that in-house separations don't work.  You need the space from each other to get the perspective you each need to make changes and the lines of authority are very muddled if you try to work it out in the same home.  Perhaps he has a friend from whom he could inexpensively rent a room?

And, are you sure you've exhausted other avenues?  Perhaps my couples course might help him understand the importance of genuinely tackling the ADHD symptoms?  (next session starts 4/26)

I agree with you that getting

I agree with you that getting the actual space away to get perspective and heal is necessary.  I am thinking in house separation only because of our son.  That and all his tools are at our house, but maybe I can give him access to his workshop if he moves out.  I am basically over trying to get help with our marriage (see post below from me).  I think I would only be "one foot in" for any couples course and I know that makes progress impossible. I would only be doing it so that he could get help. 


Does he know he's ADHD?  I am an ADHD wife and although I have never not worked at all, I have been underemployed for the last 8 years and my husband has been frustrated by this.  My 'projects'-  like your husbands - would cost more money than they earned, and I had to 'start over' many times when trying to find work. When i did have a steady job, it wasn't highly paid.  However when we had our first child I was a full-time mom, housecleaner, shopper, chef etc.  I was exhausted all the time and thought I was doing ok, until my husband complained that the house was messy and I was spending too much on food (I would shop everyday because I couldn't figure out how to make meal plans ahead of time). When my he expressed anger that I was not earning enough money (I was only bringing in a few hundred dollars a month) I was shocked.  I was with our daughter full-time, was working some, and I was pregnant (and very sick) with our second child.  He told me I had 'no ambition' and I needed to suck it up and get work so we could stop living like students.  I didn't think our life was so bad.... but... then I looked at the numbers.

If your husband could understand what ADHD is and get on meds it may make a WORLD of difference. Also, one thing that made finances clear to me was watching 'Til Debt do us part'.  A GREAT show about getting out of debt when your spouse is a spender and your a saver.  I would always think my husband was being unreasonable when he'd say something like, "No, we don't have $3. 84 for a box of new crayons." until we tried living on cash only.  We ADHDers do better when we can see and touch things.  Concepts are difficult... so.... when you've got labeled jars of cash ie:  "food" "car expenses" "Cothing" etc. and those jars only have a certain amount in them, you CAN'T overspend.

As for the in-house separation, I dunno.  seems tricky.  I can't imagine the frustration when you found out about the extra hours of daycare expenses and the claim that he was 'taking care of your son' all day.  But - we convince ourselves of the things we tell others.  It's awful.  I know.  I used to do it myself.  I really hope you can take care of yourself, and I hope your husband can understand and accept that he's got ADHD and get some help.  If he does get help you may be surprised to see him actually succeeding at his woodworking business.  It IS surprising what we can accomplish when we hyperfocus, and with medication and therapy that kind of focus can be reached without the 'crash' afterwards.

good luck to both of you!

I have shown my husband the

I have shown my husband the numbers so many times, and he is shocked at first but then forgets.  Living this way has forced me to account for every penny, which has made my accounting skills great.  My husband has been diagnosed since he was 18 with ADHD. He has gotten help 2 times since then in our marriage (medication) and it now on medication and seeing a therapist.  He now lives in denial that he is not doing better because his medication helps him focus (on one thing and forget the rest).  He obviously needs to try a new kind, dosage, etc.   But I cannot be the one to manage his therapy and medication any longer.  I truly hope that he is able to gain control over his life because I do wish him peace, but I simply do not love him anymore.  The ugly reality is that he became not just mentally and emotionally abusive, but also physically abusive and I probably should have gotten the police involved. I do not know the tricks that his mind plays on him because I can only read about and not experience ADHD, but I have so much work to do to move past the abuse that I see separation as the only way.  He turned into this great guy for 3 months when I was about to leave him, but in the next 5 months he is now the same person minus the abuse.   I didn't realize what a large part his ADHD was playing in his life until I started reading about it.  Now I see how he has been unintentionally in his own way all this time. I am just exhausted in trying to be supportive.  I get none back and then he complains that I am not supportive enough.  I was happy to hear your perspective.  I do hear him say "If I could just...fill in the blank...then that would make things better", but he doesn't get that he actually needs to do the work to get results.  I can carry the household, save money, have more time with my son because I'll have less cleaning up his messes, without him.  This has been 8 years of brain frying frustration and trying, while he just wants me to "get over things".  I don't hate him, but cannot put myself through this again now that I know so much more.