The Snowball Effect

I have been with my husband for 25 years.  In that time we have had a very volitile relationship.  I have spent some time reading other members frustrations and there is one pattern that I am seeing.  The partners of ADD feel extremely helpless and defeated.  I keep reading about out of control finances and households and I am also hearing replies that state "what are you doing to help this".  The fact of the matter is that many of us feel damned if we do and damned if we don't.  On one hand we are told to set boudaries and have expectations from our Spouses and on the other hand we are told to take responsibility for the mess our life is in.  An example is financial.  I used to handle the finances and was constantly frustrated because my husband always overspent and would not stay within the budget.  So I asked him to take reponsibility for some of the finances and that's when the snow ball starts.  $200 turns into $500 in late fees and interest.  Do you then take it away and say I can't count on you?  He says he is going to fix something and wants you to trust him...he doesn't do it and by now you are so in debt you can't pay anyone else, but the consequences of his inaction costs in other ways.  You pay insurance on a vehicle that is not running, rent a car when you need a vehicle, miss an appointment because of lack of transportation.  There are so many areas that start to slip, that you can't keep up.  I managed the first 15 years by succeeding on my own and trying to enjoy the fun, quirky and creative side of my husband.  I was driven and professionally successful and happy, though I was often exhasted and resentful of the extreme effort it took to keep our lives going forward.  Then I got sick.  For 10 years I have been battling a disease similar to MS.  It has stripped me of my career and my independance.  Even worse, is that it has made me dependant on my husband.  My life has eroded away and I feel helpless.  I often can't take care of the house or make meals and live in filth and don't eat regularly.  It is up to me to correct my life; but I don't know how.  He will only end the marriage if I leave.  We have multiple pets and a teenage daughter.  She doesn't want to move, but wants to stay with me.  I can't find a rental that will take the pets and I know he won't care for them (in fact he says he does not want them). 

If he would get help I would feel differently, but he refuses to get professional help or consider medication.  The more angry I become; the more he refuses to help.   If I express anger..then he will not do anything.  He says he is just as ill as I am with ADD, so his behavior should be excused.  If I am good and makeup with him, he will try for a couple of days and during that time he has all these "plans".  If I don't agree to the plans, then I am non-trusting.  If I let them happen (like deciding to rebuild something crucial in our lives), they will never be completed and we end up in more mess and I am more angry and resentful.  We cycle like this constantly.  I'm resentful, he withholds, we makeup, he is better and even starts something new, things start to slip, he starts to lie or hide (both from himself and me) how bad things are, I get angry, he withholds...  I can't seem to break this pattern and I have even contemplated suicide to escape the mess.  My daughter is all that keeps me sane.  He has a fit if I suggest that someone else help, but can't get things done himself.  I push to try and clean up the mess and end up in bed for days as a result.  I know that he is a good person.  He is the first to offer help if someone is stranded and is a loving father in many ways and very physically affectionate....but our life is falling apart and he refuses to acknowlege it.  I have been to councelling many, many times.  EVERY therapist has recommended that I leave.  We have gone to marriage councelling..but he is only physically involved.  He will not do the exercises recommended.  I am not looking for answers so much as responding to the answers that I am sometimes seeing in this forum.  That the partner is blaming the ADD partner too much and not taking enough responsibility.  Sometimes there is just nothing left to give. 

melting the snowball

"...have even contemplated suicide to escape the mess"

Please, please don't believe that this is the answer!! Remember, your daughter and pets need you! If you're feeling like this, it's probably time to talk to your doctor or a therapist about your feelings; medicine or a change of medicine may help. If money is an issue, there are free and sliding-scale options out there. The counselor at our local public school was able to give us a referral list of local places that I hadn't even known were there. Don't lose hope. Maybe the snowball feels too big to be stopped, but maybe it can be melted down some :).

I can really understand where you're coming from, especially about feeling that there's nothing left to give. My husband sounds very similar to yours, we've been on some of the same roller coaster with responsibilities, anger and resentment.... I don't have your illness to contend with though, and knowing how everything falls apart here if I'm sick for one day and not there to "rescue" everything, I'd imagine that makes your situation very hard. I'm so sorry :(. You have my sympathies there. 

I know you said that every therapist has recommended you leave, but if that's not possible for you right now, is there anything that will help you through, so you can feel stronger and less helpless in dealing with the situation? For example, maybe you have friends or family that can come over and help with some household chores? Can you get a home health nurse, volunteer or someone similar that would come and help, especially on the "bad" days? If you go to church, the church might have some things they can do to help. Are there support groups for your illness or ADHD ones like CHADD in your area that would let you talk to others in a similar situation face-to-face so you can vent some of the stress? 

And by the way, him saying "he is just as ill as I am with ADD, so his behavior should be excused" is a cop-out on his part. Yeesh. As Melissa has pointed out elsewhere, a reason for the behavior is not an excuse for it to continue. He still has to take responsibility for it. In our family we have three people with an ADHD diagnosis; my hubby, 11 yr old and 13 yr old, all of whom have other diagnosis as well. Our house is a mess from the chaotic nature of things and lack of attention span, but if I ask them to do i.e. the dishes, they can - may need some reminding or redirection, but they can do it. Your husband may need a list or some reminders from you, but for him to say he's as ill as you are and therefore incapable of helping seems silly. 


Great to have feedback

Thank you for your support.  Intellectually I know suicide is not the answer and don't believe I will ever go there; I'm too much of a fighter.  It is the fighter in me that finds this so difficult.  I have found this site very informative and it is wonderful to see all the support available.  I agree that he is wrong to state that he is as disabled as I am, but I do have some understanding of his struggle, after dealing with my own.  I have been very successful in my life and had very few barriers intellectually and psychologically before I became ill.  My illness affects both my mind and my body.  I struggle daily to keep functioning and I understand what it is like to be mentally disorganized.  What is difficult for me to understand is how I percieve his inability to fight.  The part of me that was driven to succeed, is also driven to not let my illness win.  It is hard to understand why he will not seek help, does not fight harder. 

On the other hand I know that my illness has increased my resentment towards him.  I want him to fight for the life we used to have; I want him to do what I used to do.  I know that is unfair and after browsing this site, I am able to see how much unfair pressure I have put on him.  He can't be me and the more I push, the more ashamed he feels and the less he wants to try and maybe the less he can try.  I am trying to come to terms with the fact that I don't need to lower my expectations, as much as change them.  Does anybody else out there deal with really passive-aggressive behavior with their spouse?  Is it a common trait in ADD?


Yes to the passive-aggresive

Yes to the passive-aggresive question!!!!! I always thought of it as his way of manipulating the situation to cover for his mis-haps and shortcomings and screw-ups. Now, I'm beginning to wonder if he is even conscious of what he is doing. It is more instinctive than thought-out. When I point out his passive-aggresive behavior to him,he stops to ponder his actions. I think it comes from a place of feeling bad about himself for messing up...yet again. By turning the situation he deflects his bad feelings about himself and transfers those negative emotions to me through the passive/aggresive route. It can be very frustrating and very hurtful, especially since now somehow you are forced to defend yourself or your position.

I am concerned that you

I am concerned that you aren't getting proper meals. That can't help your condition. I would refer you to some suggestions that kind people on this site made to me when I was contemplating surgery and afraid my husband wouldn't hold it together at home while I was recovering. (Actually, he did fine. ADDers can focus for that long. He always has been the dinner cook in our family because I worked nights and now go to school at night.)

Can you eat good quality frozen meals? Stouffer's, etc. do nutritious food that isn't exactly like homemade, but a lot better than nothing. Also, you may qualify for Meals on Wheels. My husband works with the mentally ill population, and many of them qualify, so you don't have to be a senior citizen. Worth looking into. Both of those alternatives get you something to eat without having to cook or mess up your kitchen.

Does your daughter get proper food? Does your husband eat all his meals out, and not worry about the two of you getting enough to eat?

Thanks for the concern

Thank you for your wonderful support and ideas.  Some days it seems that none of us eat properly and some days he really makes an effort.  Often, if I am really ill, he will resort to grabbing takeout...something that is definately not good for any of us.  We live in a small town and take-out usually means fast food.  When I read your suggestions I feel a bit ashamed.  There are options out there and I think it is an inability of mine to accept my own illness that makes me not seek them out.  I think many of us get into power struggles with our ADD spouses; if they really love us they will pull it together and make things right.  If he really loved me, he would see that I am so ill and in pain that he needs to get his butt in gear and make the meals. 

My illness not only affects me, but has put a huge strain on my family.  We have been in a tug of war for a long time.  I can't make the meals, but I can meal plan and make grocery lists.  I can also come up with easy to make meals.  I am going to try to do this and see what happens.  Hopefully, we can stop seeing each other as a burden and find a different way of living.  I know anger and resentment is not good for any of us and we all behave badly at times.  This site has given me the hope and insight to try again.  I know it sounds crazy, after all I have known for years that he is affected...but I think that just writing on this site (the only time I have entered any forum) has really given me a new perspective.  Wish me luck!


Nice to hear back from you. I

Nice to hear back from you. I know a little of how you feel. I have bad arthritis in my knees and sometimes I do feel like, if he loved me, he'd know how hard it is to do housework, etc. But it doesn't really work that way with men, especially with ADD.

You do sound more positive than when you first wrote. I do hope you can find ways to make it work for you. Let us know how you get on.

To desperate & sue ann

If I interpret correctly, SueAnn is suggesting that you don't equate whether or not your husband cares with whether or not he feeds you well.  This is sage advice.  A very common misinterpretation of the ADD trait "distraction" is "my spouse doesn't love me".  It's generally not true - only that the spouse is distracted.  So rather than set yourself up for disappointment, I suggest that you don't "test" him by equating his suddenly becoming less distracted with "success".  Rather, set your goal to be something like this "I come up with a new system which together we can make work so that I get nutritious food".  That system could be any of the ideas others have offered, including having others help out, too.  I suspect that you can meet this goal with some creativity, and that he might even like to help out (since he no longer has to become non-ADD to help out) and that you'll both be happier (or, at a minimum, you'll be happier...and better fed!)

Good luck with it.