Walking a line

I'm hoping for some support and feedback on walking the line between enabling and support for my ADD spouse. I didn't see this in any forums but am new to the site and probably missed it.

I have so many thoughts that this may come out as a massive jumble.

I'm really trying to understand this disorder but start to feel frustrated when it seems like i am the only one doing this. He takes his medication and occasionally sees a psychiatrist but puts little else into it. I've tried to encourage him to read (he has a learning disability as well so i know reading is frustrating for him) and have even tried to set aside time for us to read the books together. We have a new baby so time for both of us limited but i feel like this needs to be a priority. He seems uninterested and dismissive of the need to do any work. I feel torn because i want to support him but worry that it turns to enabling because i am "forcing" the work rather then him looking at it on his own.

This theme crosses into a lot of areas of our lives. With finances i finally decided to take over because bills were getting missed and was effecting both of our financial health. It makes sense for me to do this but i worry that i am taking responsibility away from him and allowing him to not have to deal with these things. I worry that i will become resentful (at times i already am) if i continually have to "take over" areas of our lives because of his inablitity to manage.

My life feels like a constant question of attributing behaviour to his ADD vs. him not taking responsibility and i guess that is really what i'm looking for is how to begin to understand/support/detach/or whatever? How do you know when a behaviour is ADD? Is it my job to figure this out? What is his responsibility? How do i support him in figuring this out? Is it enabling to try and support him in figuring it out?

It all feels completely overwhelming at times and I want this to work. I would love to hear thoughts on this and about other people's experiences.

Walking the line

I can't answer this from any kind of professional standpoint, but boy can I relate - and I imagine most people here can.  I do think (personally) that catchphrases like "enabling" are not something that can be defined from the outside.  Some people would be fine handling (or at least organizing) all the housework, finances and planning as long as the spouse did things when asked (my guy for example doesn't see dust all over, but will vacuum if I ask him to).  For many, this is completely overwhelming, so then it's not fair.  Know what I mean?  If you are fine with doing a lot of the organizing or controlling, for lack of a better word, and he does pitch in when asked - does that still mean you are enabling him?

I've been brooding about this sort of thing on and off for months or more.  Sometimes I feel that I'm the only one concerned about...well, anything... and that if had to be away everything would fall apart (which is probably an exaggeration).  What I really want is for us to sit down and go through everything that needs to get done (housework, finances, gift buying, dinner planning and so on) so that he can see on paper all the things I'm constantly thinking about and trying to find a solution together.  I do know that he doesn't want me too feel tired and overwhelmed all the time, he just has a hard time knowing what to do and when.

So, basically, there is no help in me, just a bit of commiserating.  Maybe someone else has some insight :)

concern about everything

Just wanted to share something that came to mind as you wrote about wanting to sit down, make a list of everything you are juggling to get done so that he can realize how overwhelming all of it is. 

I had an eye opening experience with the adder BF.  one evening after work, two of my teen daughters, one of their boyfriends, and my adder BF were all going to be able to sit down to dinner.  We had not had guests over for a long time and I was really happy about it.  I immediately wanted to produce this huge meal and I did, ALONE.  then after dinner everyone seemed to have plans except ME.  I found myself doing all the dishes from this huge meal and had to stop to transport one daughter to an event.  The adder BF was watching tv, but said he'd help me when the program was over.

I had worked all day and was very tired.  After preparing this huge home cooked meal, taking my daughter somewhere I was very tired.  When I walked back into the kitchen I saw dirty pots and pans, a dirty floor, food still on the table, and it was just overwhelming.  I  began to get sad, angry, and disappointed that nobody seemed to care.

Okay, so the the adder BF is extremely sensitive to my bad mood even though I had not said anything.  He told me if I had waited he was going to help. he very calmly asked me these questions.

Why did you go to such trouble for dinner when you have worked all day and are tired?

Why not prepare something very simple and enjoy your family?

Why not avoid all that cleanup?

Suddenly I saw that I had done what I always do--overachieve, trying to make a special meal without thinking about myself first. Because he was so calm and gentle in his attitude, I realized that the only person I should be angry with was me.  This moment made me realize that I needed a very simple life--one that did not make huge demands on me.  i decided to examine some of my own expectations and their effect on me.  It has been very humbling. There are lots of ways to simplify life, but we often do not realize how the "shoulds" cause our lives to be complicated and overwhelming.    

I am not add but i believe that I can learn a lot from the way he thinks. I think he takes care of himself much better than I do.  So I decided that I would try to apply his advice and simplify as much as I can.  I'm still tired after work, but you will not find me slaving in the kitchen again.



Thanks for your input Brenda, I actually quite agree.  For example, most days I don't prepare dinner, but we have take-out, bread or something else that requires minimal preparation.  We all get a hot meal for lunch at work/school so I do this without guilt.  That doesn't change the fact that someone has to decide what's for dinner = me.  

The house get's dirty no matter how much you try to keep things simple, and while he will gladly vacuum, I almost always have to ask him to.  Same for smelly kitty litter-he doesn't notice, forgets the set days (that were his idea) and I remind him almost every time.  And so on. Even though I am by no standards a perfectionist when it comes to the household (at least not in practice), I feel stressed and have a hard time relaxing walking into a messy, unclean (and sometimes a bit smelly) home most days of the week.  

I would gladly do everything myself, in fact I did for a year or two, but then I developed fibromyalgia and now I just can't anymore.  I  need his help, and the mess stresses me, which worsens my symptoms as well.  My country is in a really bad recession and I can't really justify hiring help, although sometimes I would like to.  It's also hard when all planning for anything falls on me, any birthday or holiday gifts are my responsibility and so on.  He might suggest a last minute movie, but that doesn't work for me, since we need to arrange for a babysitter beforehand.  I feel that if it were left up to him we would never see anyone else, never take vacations, never go out, never throw birthday or dinner parties and so on, never give people gifts, never eat... you get the drift. Oh, and the house would be smelly from kitty litter, dust everywhere, dishes with dried food bits stacked all over and overwhelming piles of newspapers, magazines, assorted computer parts would be on the floor, tables, stairs and so on.  It's sort of a neater version of what I described now - there is some dirt on the floor, laundry has piled up, shelves were last dusted a few weeks ago, there is some washing up left (but not too bad) and there are 2 or 3 empty plastic bags floating on tables or floors, various papers on most surfaces... oh boy, I'm getting depressed looking around so I'd better stop.

Haven't sat down with him yet...maybe one day I'll have the energy ('cause it takes energy to plan things out and make routines and such).  I might add that he is very willing, he just rarely initiates anything and I feel like a nag when I remind him (again) to do so-and-so.

Nag or Drift

I walk that line too.  If I want something to happen I have to ask for it.  But, isn't it nice to not have to ask?

I've realized a few things:

  • I have to take care of myself and address my needs.  If I have to ask for my needs to be met so be it.  I could end-up waiting forever otherwise.  I need to be more assertive in a non-critical way that communicates "I need you" not "I'm telling you to" (This includes initiating sex, eating healthfully)
  • I'm naturally inclined to be a follower.  I relinquish control in a relationship and become a player in my partner's life, which is fine when the partner is out-going and likes to do the same things as me... but I've found ourselves spending the evenings watching TV and living together-but-separate.  (watching TV during meals, reading, computing - not "bonding" things.)
  • I need to do things alone.  And learn to be okay with that.  I would love to share a lot of things with him but if he's not going to enjoy it I need to stop expecting him to (eating out, watching live music, making friends and being social, picnics, walks.)  I need to find more interests that don't include him because I feel offended when he doesn't seem to enjoy himself.  I need to become more independent (getting my driver's license would help a LOT!)  If I ask he will often consent to participating, but it's hard to tell if he really likes it or if he's just enduring.
  • I will have to accept his desire to do things alone, even if I want to join him.  (He likes to shop alone if he has to shop for clothes/not food shopping, goes to martial arts a few times a week, locks himself away to practice guitar and singing, go to the pub to play the lotto machines, study the race horses, practice magic tricks.)
  • ADD or not we are each naturally inclined towards taking on different tasks.  Around the house he does dishes more than me - he hates to see them pile-up and I think it's not worth doing unless there is a lot, so I only do them when they pile-up but he rarely lets that happen.  We both cook, and we're good at taking turns, but we cook differently - he's a meat & potatoes guy whereas I tend to do stir-fries, lots of veggies, chicken or tofu and get creative with pastas, rice and casseroles.  I end-up doing laundry on the weekend because I'm a bit anal about how it's done and get a weird sense of satisfaction from it.  I've devised a plan to pay-down his credit card debt so he transfers the majority of his bi-monthly pay to my account and I handle it.  We each let the other with the "strength" do what they're good at.  We're currently planning our wedding and I can't get my mind away from the decorations/appearance and he can only focus on the logistics of how the days will play out (who sleeps/sits where, who makes what speeches, etc.)  I made two identical lists, we sat down, and split-up the tasks quite naturally that way.  We are struggling with a couple of things, but have faith it'll all come together in ~gulp~ three weeks!
  • He loves and respects me and doesn't neglect to do things on purpose.  He doesn't wish to burden or offend me, he's just not completely aware of how I feel without me letting him know

Sometimes I wait for him to notice and do those things, sometimes I ask or suggest... the things I've absolutely given-up on after being told to stop being a nag are: having the tea towels and hand towels folded and hung neatly (he's a 'stuffer') getting him to not drink alcohol during the week (it's less often than it used to be but I don't think it's my influence.)  But I have won other battles like: getting him to not use a wet spoon in the sugar & instant coffee - getting him to scoop out the sugar before the coffee (I'd rather have sugar in the coffee than coffee in the sugar!) and getting him to hang-up the shower mat after dripping on it.  Ok, so he still drips off the mat as well but he still drips off it.  I think if I can explain the logic behind something then he will try harder to comply but if it seems like I'm being senselessly anal then he tells me to get over it.  I have gotten over a lot of my old anal habits.  You should have seen the cutlery drawer in my last apartment... I could drive myself insane!

Basically I've let him tell me where I need to stop being a nag and where he needs to be reminded about things.  Like he says he's happy to clean the shower and the urine drips off the wall but he just doesn't notice.  I do feel it's not my place to TELL him to do things but if he says it's ok... then it's ok.

So... for self-improvement stuff?  I think you have to be very tactical in your approach.  You need to be very careful not to convey that you think he's lacking certain qualities, but make it clear how you feel about things.  Instead of saying "Why don't you ever pick-up after yourself?" instead say something like "it makes me feel stressed-out when the floor is cluttered."  But not in an exasperated tone.  Then you're talking about how he can help you feel better instead of what's wrong with him.  I'm really lucky that my fiance is so self-aware and willing to improve the quality of our relationship, but he doesn't always know what's wrong until I point it out.  I'm a bit surprised we survived through the learning-how-to-point-it-out process because it was a bit tumultuous... me feeling dissatisfied, him feeling harangued, me attacking, him defending.  Just didn't work.  We're actually in couples therapy now, even though we haven't achieved much yet and we're taking a break from it until after the wedding, but I think a third person - someone who is emotionally neutral and unbiased - can help give perspective on the dynamics of the relationship.