What proof can I get from him that he's actually working on his issues?


I am not married, but my boyfriend has ADHD.  I post on this website, because I've known I've wanted to marry this man from the first date.  He's the one.  I just know it.  And I know he feels the same way.  We've discussed moving in to getting engaged to being married.  But, I've come to the conclusion that all of the issues I have with him center around his ADHD and if he doesn't take steps to manage those issues we won’t be able to have a future together.

I found out he had ADHD within the first month of our relationship.  I asked him whether he had Bipolar Disorder or ADHD.  I considered Bipolar Disorder, because his behavior seemed manic to me.  He told me that he had ADHD and that he was diagnosed with it when he was young.  After finding out he was diagnosed with ADHD I read up on it, but the typical mental health websites didn't offer much in lengthy descriptions that explained what the disorder entailed.  So up until recently I thought his ADHD affected him to the extent of having difficulty concentrating and being impulsive.  Boy was I wrong.

About 2 weeks ago I sat down at my computer and in a moment of boredom thought to look up information on ADHD.  The issue that was bothering me the most, at the time, was our sex life...and the lack thereof.  Previously, I hadn’t thought ADHD and sex were connected, but it was the only frame of reference in regards to his behavior that I could think to look up.  I forget what I put in differently, as opposed to the times I've googled ADHD before, but the links I received contained first hand accounts of people with ADHD and/or their significant others.  It was then that I realized the full extent of ADHD and that most of the issues I had with him that I couldn't put my finger on were all a product of ADHD!  (…on top of the issues I had with him that I already knew were from ADHD).  Initially, I felt relieved that I could finally pinpoint a source to our issues, but the more I read about the disorder the more at a loss I felt.  Now I know that in order for things to get better it is going to take a full commitment on his part to getting help to manage his disorder.  It was different when I wasn’t sure what was wrong.  The idea of having to rely on him for things to get better is terrifying.

We’ve never experienced a honeymoon period in this relationship; although, things have improved since I’ve met him.  Unfortunately, things have only improved because of me and its relative in comparison to the ups and downs of a normal relationship.  I’ve stuck to my guns and enforced every boundary violation that’s come up regardless of how much he’s fought me on them.  He seems to respond very well to structure and boundaries, but if I don’t intervene, educate him on how his behavior is inappropriate and then reaffirm the boundaries he would just be on autopilot following every impulse that comes to him.  He’s been in therapy before, but he told me that the last couple of years he’s wanted to work on his issues himself.  He’s come a long way in certain respects (work, aggression), but is still incredibly behind in other areas.  It’s scary to realize how far he’s come, because of the implication that he was worse!

He doesn’t seem to have any insight or awareness into his interpersonal issues between he and I.  YET, he can recognize them as being unacceptable in someone else.  In fact, many of the things he does he wouldn’t dare put up with if he were on the receiving end, which is a difficult double standard to wrap my head around.  He’s incredibly judgmental and projects many of the things he does onto other people.  His other issues, such as money and mapping out a future for himself (he’s almost 30 and has never moved out of his parent’s house or had any real responsibility) he uses endless excuses for or talks about them like he’s acting on them, but really isn’t.  Then when you call him out on not having followed through he justifies it in some ridiculous way or says “he doesn’t care what people think of him.”  He’s taken not caring what people think to a whole other level in order to cope with years of criticism.  In a lot of ways I would consider him to not know himself very well as he sometimes talks about himself as the person he wants to be and not as who he is in the present.  I’m at the point where I take anything he says with a grain of salt, because it’s not even worth dealing with the potential disappointment of finding out something you thought was in the process of happening isn’t.  So often things aren’t what they seem and that makes me feel incredibly vulnerable.  Often I feel like a fool and that I’m being lied to.  People either pity me for staying with him or want me to meet someone else.

We had two discussions in the last week where I confessed to having been researching more and more on ADHD and that I have come to the conclusion that all of our issues center around his ADHD.  To my surprise, he agreed!  He admitted to some extent the difficulties this disorder has had on his life, but he didn’t use specific examples, such as “My ADHD has affected my ability to follow through with simple plans” which is what I need to hear from him.  I told him that even though I love him I will not accept things as the way they are now and if they don’t change I will leave.  Since that discussion he told me that he saw his old therapist and he plans on going on a regular basis.  He also told me that the main reason he did that was because of me.  He did something like this before during a period of time where I broke up with him.  He did apply effort on his own during that period of time, but his efforts fizzled out.  It seems like he needs help outside of himself to make sure he follows through with things.  It worries me that his reason for seeing a therapist was because of me.  I just can’t imagine him following through with therapy in the long run unless if HE wants to change for HIMSELF.

I’m at a point where I’m actually frustrated with myself for still seeing him.  I love him to death and I’ve never felt this way before, but the relationship is unhealthy.  I see the posts that people put on here and I know we are dead ringers for the same fate if we were to be married (or even just live together).   I will and am not the type of person who will compensate for what he won’t do.  I will help him, but I won’t do it for him.

I am constantly swinging back and forth between thinking we have a future and wanting him out of my life.  Whenever I start to just be he crosses some boundary that I would never think of having to point out and then the chaos begins. I’m so burned out.  I know what it’s like to have issues that limit how you can live your life.  I was diagnosed with PTSD and have a history of trauma, which has caused multiple issues, not including PTSD that I won’t get into here.  I’ve been through the gambit of therapy, probably more so than anything anyone with ADHD would have to go through, so I know first hand what it takes to make issues manageable and to come as close to “normal” as one can.  The difference between me and him is that I hit rock bottom of what I could do for myself and pursued therapy because I wanted a better life than I was having…and I wanted it for MYSELF. 

But going on the assumption that he’s going to pursue therapy because he said he would due to him being reliably unreliable I feel that I need further proof than just his word that he’s 1) going to therapy and 2) working on his issues.  I literally feel like I need to see an insurance bill to prove he went to a session!  And a play by play of his game plan to change in order to believe he’s applying new coping mechanisms.  How do I go about doing this??  What do people normally do in my situation?  And what is suggested someone in my position do?  Should I go therapy with him?  A part of me wants to. I can’t go any longer giving him the benefit of the doubt that he will one day get it together.  I need to be informed and involved in this process on a day to day basis.  I’m just not willing to waste any more of my time on something that I can’t be sure is happening, because if it doesn’t I want out of this relationship for good.

Proof He's Working

You don't need the proof of an insurance bill.  In the stage that you are at, what matters is that specific things change.  You don't say what those specific things are but you probably know what they are.  If you love him, it's in both of your best interests to make sure he understands what it is that you are having trouble with in your relationship so that he can see if any of those things are addressable on his end.  Make sure to phrase your comments with "I" statements, rather than to tell him all the things he is doing wrong (in other words "I am feeling insecure right now about whether or not you love me" rather than "You clearly don't love me")

It's perfectly legitimate for him to seek counselling in order to improve your relationship (particularly since people with ADD aren't great self-analyzers as you point out) so I don't think you should ding him for not wanting to do it "for himself".  People go to marriage counselling for that specific purpose, for example, not because it's fun.  That said, the proof is in the results, not the number of visits.  If you think that he might not keep up the sessions because he gets bored with them, it may make sense to suggest to him he also hire a coach.  He seems open to considering his ADD as well as some of the foibles related to it, so he may well be open to the suggestion.  The idea would be to find someone who can remind him regularly of his goals, and someone who can work with him to help develop specific tactics to get there.

What I worry about more, actually, is his still living at home.  The time when an ADD person becomes truly independent can be a shock.  Most do this when they go to college, and the result is sometimes that they fall flat on their faces (sometimes flunking out).  If your boyfriend is at home because it's comfortable for him to have someone else organize him, then you can expect that he'll expect that from you.  Are you ready for that?

I also worry about the judgemental part you describe.  It suggests a lack of flexibility.  Personally, I think flexibility is a great asset in a relationship as you spend a good deal of time negotiating how you will be with each other and who will do what.  Acceptance is also an asset in any relationship.

I guess I would say that you should stop focusing on the ADD at this point.  You've finally got a name for what's going on...and so does he.  He can either address it because it's in his best interests to do so (and set up a system, such as hiring a coach, that ensures he continues to address it) or not.  You've done the research and he can benefit from it if he chooses to do so.  You love him dearly, and perhaps always will, but you are talking about your life, too.  ADD may be the reason why he's having trouble.  It shouldn't end up being his excuse.

<em>"You don't need the proof

<em>"You don't need the proof of an insurance bill.  In the stage that you are at, what matters is that specific things change.  You don't say what those specific things are but you probably know what they are." </em>

I agree.  It's just that I'm at the point where I question the validity of everything he says and does.  I want a guaruntee that if I put forth time and emotion he's doing his part as well.  But I do remind myself that if he doesn't go things won't change, I'll notice and that will be proof enough.

<em>"If your boyfriend is at home because it's comfortable for him to have someone else organize him, then you can expect that he'll expect that from you.  Are you ready for that?"</em>

He failed out of community college and then his mother got him into college.  I'm not sure how he did there or to what extent he was independent.  He told me his parents managed his loans and instead of him paying the loan payments himself he paid his parents who in turn applied the money to the actual bill.  I know his mother is managing his savings account, because he says that's the best way he can save money.  He withdrawls cash from his checking account and gives it to his mom who puts it into his savings account.  He sees this as easier than him setting up his paycheck so that a portion of it goes directly into his savings account.  I've told him that living at home for this long has indirectly sheltered him from his problems and has given him the illusion that they aren't as bad as they are, because technically,  he doesn't have to take an active role in anything.  

To answer your question, no I'm not ready for that and I will never be.  I actually have the opposite problem where I think I'm too independent to the point where it's difficult for me to accept help.  In conjunction with that it's very difficult for me to take on any kind of caretaker role, because if I do it myself so should you.  He has already tried to put these things on me.  Four months into the relationship he insisted I manage his money for him and this conversation came up over and over again until I broke up with him.  Even something as simple as gettting a Netflix account he wouldn't do on his own.  I told him that Netflix automatically takes the money out of your account every month; as opposed to you paying a physical bill and he still insisted I get it under my name, because he's that bad with money.  When I moved into my new apartment, he began to move all of his stuff in and just expected to get a key and be able to be there all of the time regardless of the fact that he wasn't living there yet (we discussed taking it slow).  When he has days off he asks me what's he's going to do while I'm at work, like it's up to me to occupy him.   It's like he imposes himself on me and it doesn't occur to him that maybe that's not the way things work.  Ok, sorry, I'm rambling!  All of these instances keep coming to me...

<em>"You love him dearly, and perhaps always will, but you are talking about your life, too.  ADD may be the reason why he's having trouble.  It shouldn't end up being his excuse."</em>

He actually doesn't use it as his excuse that often.  I wish he would!  It would show insight into himself and he would be giving me explinations from a human perspective instead of an excuse that doesn't match up with what's going on in reality.  That's typically what he does.  He's so far in denial.  He says he's read up on ADHD, but I don't think he's fully aware of the impact it's had on his life to the extent that he's willing to admit that it's effect on him has left him unable to do things that most adults don't even think twice about.  Your first sentence above is actually what I've said to him...that I do love him, but if he doesn't change and at the end of the day this situation isn't what I want for myself than I will have to leave the relationship regardless of how I feel for him.  He couldn't grasp this concept.