It would almost be better if it were hookers and blow.
March 12, 2013 6:15 AM   Subscribe

My SO and I are in a delicate and precarious financial & marital state and from my perspective he's actively fucking things up for us all. What can I do to get us on the right track?

My husband was laid off over two years ago from his job as a mid-level manager and has not found a new job. He has had a few phone interviews but not landed an in-person interview in this entire time. I grown to believe he has abandoned his job search, while he sits at the computer all day ostensibly job hunting and emailing off resumes, he spends much of his time arguing on forums and browsing the web or spending hours sleeping during the day. Additionally, he has failed to follow through on numerous job leads given to him by myself, friends, and in two cases, my own employers. He has not networked even though every job he's ever had in the past he's found via personal recommendation but he's now refusing to do this to the extent that when he recently went out to lunch with his former coworkers and when they asked what he was up to, he claimed he was working on a (nonexistent) project rather than to tell them he was looking for a position. I've encouraged him to volunteer at our children's schools or for organizations he supports so at least he'd get out and about but he's done nothing there either.

I've been a stay at home mom for the past decade, quitting my career when one of our children turned out to have a severe learning disability that required a lot of home support. When my SO lost his job, I immediately started working contract and temp jobs with varying degrees of success, in the last year my average monthly pre-tax income has been just enough to cover our most basic living expenses (mortgage, utilities, insurance, food, gasoline). Although it would impact my ability to support our child's schooling, I'm too am looking for a full time position as my top priority is keeping our roof over our heads and regaining our financial stability.

We owe the IRS $10K for 2012 that we will have to go onto an installment plan to pay. We also need to pay $3K in property tax in April. An job opening that I made third round interviews stalled while the company reorgs and if it opens back at all, it will not be until end of May. I'm still temp working and looking other FT positions but we will have to dip into our 401K to pay some of April's bills on time.

None of this is awesome but it's doable and we could squeak by for a little while longer until one or the other of us or both lands a job except...SO has always had a problem controlling his discretionary spending even when he was employed. Before and after he was laid off, there have been numerous incidents over the years where he has purchased supplies & services for a non-income-generating personal hobby for a total bill that took a giant chunk out of our monthly net income. This has caused a confrontation and argument for each incident that ends with his promise will cut back followed by 3 months worth of ever increasing charge balances and ATM withdrawals* until another whopper of a self-inflicted budget busting month comes along. Now that our income is a fraction of what it was and our budget is slashed to the bone, these buying binges are killing us: he's had several in the past two years that exceeded my gross income + his unemployment benefits.

The last few weeks have been especially difficult, he's gotten obsessed with locating an item that he misplaced in our house (let's call it a pair of cufflinks) that is of very limited utility and zero sentimental value. He's owned this set of cufflinks and several other pairs very similar to it in value, appearance and function for 20+ years and the lot of them have sat unused in a drawer since a few years after he purchased them. This morning he announced he was going to buy an exact replacement for the missing set of cufflinks today. When I asked how much the cufflinks would be and he replied "a lot" and refused to elaborate. This upset me greatly and I reminded him of our hand-to-mouth income situation and the massive bills we have looming in the very near future in addition to which the two years of deferred maintenance on the house and car (example: the car's tires are bald and it badly needs a brake job yet I'm driving it every day between home, school and work) and asked him to help me understand where his head was at. He went silent-angry and spent the rest of the morning glaring at me without any further response. (In case you're wondering, the goddamn replacement cufflinks would cost upwards of $600, I looked it up later).

To me, it is clear my SO is suffering from depression but he shuts me out when I suggest that he talk to a therapist. While therapy would not be covered under our insurance, I feel like it's well worth coming up with the money somehow. Many years ago he was diagnosed with adult ADHD, briefly took medication (which made a dramatic improvement in lessening the amount of strum und drang in our relationship) but stopped after a few months saying that he didn't like taking any kind of daily medication "on principle."

What can I do? At this point, it makes me sad to admit that I'm not even sure I like him, let alone love him, this continual pattern of his putting his own needs first without any consideration for us as a family has worn me down but I also feel like that's this morning's frustration talking. The parts I find especially difficult to deal with are his refusal to discuss what he's thinking and feeling and his passive-aggressive behavior which is his standard response my disagreeing with him on any topic, which are just the shitty topping to his near-complete lack of acceptance of our financial reality. We spent three years in couples counseling years ago trying to work on the first two issues, it got a little better but now we are at levels far worse than where we were before couples therapy. The cufflinks feel like a ridiculously absurd but near perfect totem of everything that isn't working in our relationship.

I cannot kick him out because I doubt I could make him leave nor am I comfortable making such a huge decision while in such a stressful situation (stressful in addition to the relationship issues, I mean). I can't afford emotionally or financially to bundle up the kids and move out. It feels like the only thing I can do is gut this out but what can I do to get us on the right track? What should I be doing here? Should I back off about the cufflinks, encourage him indulge himself and let some critical bill go unpaid because the cufflinks represent some mystical important thing that he can't articulate? Help.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (65 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Get a separate checking account that he cannot touch. Let him know from this day forward that the money that you make will go directly to you. He is not allowed to touch it. Close all joint credit card accounts. Outline what household bills he is required to pay with his unemployment benefits. If he does not pay, then hire a lawyer to begin divorce proceedings.

Right now you are enabling him to be a narcissistic parasite. This is hurting his self-esteem, making it impossible for him to find the confidence to get a job. Draw your line in the sand. Either he will man up or you can cut your losses before he makes you homeless.

Do not nag, beg, or argue. It will only make things worse. This is not what you agreed to, it is hard, but you are strong enough to get through it without turning into someone that you do not want to be.

Good luck to you.
posted by myselfasme at 6:24 AM on March 12, 2013 [204 favorites]


nthing myselfasme
posted by eggman at 6:27 AM on March 12, 2013


No, you should not back off about the 'cufflinks'. You're driving your kids around in a car with bald tyres and dodgy brakes, and he's worried about his damn cufflinks?!

Look, I agree with you that he's probably depressed, but letting him take the rest of you down with him is not the answer here.

You need to start issuing some ultimatums, and looking at practical ways to protect yourself. I'm sure others will have good suggestions.
posted by Salamander at 6:27 AM on March 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Set boundaries.

"I love you, but the situation, as it stands, is not tenable. You need to have a job, any job, within 30 days or I am going to move out with the kids temporarily until you do."

Do not negotiate, discuss, or seek his approval. Then, if the 30 days come and go with no job, you leave.. Couch surf with a friend, travel to any family you may have.

Only he can fix this problem. You can't. All you can control is how you respond to it.

I wish you strength; you are in my prayers.
posted by DWRoelands at 6:28 AM on March 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thirding myselfasme.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:34 AM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


So sorry, but you're going to have to start acting without his consent. It sucks, but he's in no way prepared to collaborate with you to find rational, practical solutions. He's surely unhappy, but the nature of this dynamic is that he will fight to maintain the status quo despite his unhappiness. Either you will change it unilaterally, or it won't change.
posted by jon1270 at 6:34 AM on March 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


Your last paragraph is the one that is the most troubling to me, it sounds like you are close to being dragged down with him. You seem to be on running thin on emotional resources to deal with your situation. The problem is that these are only going to get thinner as things seem unlikely to get better without action. You need to figure out a strategy that can insulate you and your children from the damage that is being done and will continue to be done to your ability to each get on with your lives. I am not one to jump straight to DTMFA but there seems little reason to still be in this relationship and you need to consider prioritising yourself and your children ahead of your husband. This might mean selling the house if there is no way to get him out of it voluntarily but you should talk to a lawyer about the legalities of a split and of what your property rights might be with and without selling. Its no easy thing to end a marriage, especially with kids, but it doesn't mean it isn't the best option sometimes.

Short of ending things is there any way you can take control over the entirety or large part of the family budget so that he has no ability to spend? How about if you make it clear that the alternative to him giving you control is you leaving?

The cufflinks? No, you should not let it go, because you cannot afford to. But this is only a symptom and you need to address the deeper problem.
posted by biffa at 6:37 AM on March 12, 2013


First of all, NO, your husband cannot spend a shit-ton of money on something that is frivolous. Absolutely not!

I'm with myselfasme, separate the money NOW!

If I were you, I'd take the kids and get a studio apartment and camp out there. Put the house on the market, let it go into foreclosure, etc.

Your husband is a grown man, and he's acting like a spoiled, selfish child. Even in good times this behavior is unacceptable.

You need to have a "come to Jesus" discussion with him.

"Bill, you want to spend $600 on cuff-links, when we owe the IRS and the property tax bill is due in three months. I'm tired of being the only grown up in the house. I'm exhausted, and disallusioned, and right now my perception of you is that you're coasting along, oblivious and unwilling to help. If you don't want to work anymore, and you don't want to contribute financially to the family, if in fact you want to take food out of your children's mouths, so that you can buy cuff-links, frankly, I don't see what's left of our marriage. As of today, the credit cards are frozen, I've opened my own bank account and I'm putting all of the money into it so that you can't fritter it away.

Now, if you don't want me to start divorce proceedings, take the kids and move into an apartment I can afford on what I"m making, I need to see an ernest effort on your part to dig out of the hole you're in. I want you to sell the hobby stuff so that we can cover the tax bill, I want you to get a job, ANY job, to start bringing money into the house, I want you to submit resumes, network and go on job interviews so that you can start being a partner in this relationship. I want us to put the house on the market, because we can't afford it anymore, and grown ups realize when they're in over their heads.

I am tired of being scared and strapped and resentful of my husband. I refuse to do this anymore. If you are unwilling to do any of this, then that indicates to me that you're not willing to sacrifice to save your family."

And then have that exit plan and be prepared to execute it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:38 AM on March 12, 2013 [75 favorites]


He should be selling whatever cufflinks are left in his possession, not buying new ones.

It's time for a "come to Jesus" talk. He needs to make an appointment with his doctor to discuss medication for depression and ADD. He needs to sign up and GET a temp job. He needs to share with you (or a trusted friend) his job plans and how he is specifically acting on those plans each day. He needs to email everyone in your address book explaining that he's looking for a new job. And separate your money so he can't touch the cash. Dipping into retirement to pay for cuff links? Allowing his children to be driven in an unsafe car so he can have a totem reminder of his self worth? No. Just no. He has hit the bottom.

Personally I'd tell him that he has one month to begin addressing these issues. If he hasn't gone to the doctor, applied to 5 temp agencies and bugged them weekly, and not updated his résumé and LinkedIn, then you're assuming he no longer cares about being a family, and will proceed as such. You may be in the same house until you can move but this is not sustainable.
posted by barnone at 6:38 AM on March 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can sort of relate - my husband was just laid off and in the past his discretionary spending has been an issue for us. We dealt with his credit card thing years ago so I can see where that's a problem. Get rid of his card if you can and put him on a cash only diet or just cancel the card and use a debit card just for you. In our case I keep a tight rein on our cash and keep him updated everyday as to how much we are spending.

Your husband's adhd is what causes him to have tunnel vision about certain (bizarre) items. If he won't go to therapy - could you go for yourself and your stress? Also try reading http://www.adhdmarriage.com/ . It certainly answer some of your questions about his behavior. In the meantime, those cufflinks are a no go. Your car is borderline unsafe and your kids come first. You seem like you have managed to cobble together a plan without his help and that is awesome. You can't make him do anything positive unfortunately so it's up to you to decide how long you can out up with this. Good luck!
posted by lasamana at 6:39 AM on March 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


With the separate checking account, also transfer whatever little left you have in your current checking account over to there. After two years, unemployment benefits have been up for a while so you've been bringing in all the money.

Seconding on closing any joint credit card accounts. In the case of an eventual split, you don't want to be responsible for any more charges he's going to rack up.

Definitely don't back down on the cufflinks item and in fact propose selling the other rarely-used cufflinks. Find more stuff to sell, starting with any of the items obtained on these "buying binges". Get new brakes. In the meantime cut out all non-essential trips (to save money on gas as well).

Is he still eating comfortably? Make sure the kids are getting proper nutrition but you and him can have more budget meals - rice & beans, etc. Is it winter where you are? Turn the heat down to 55 when it's only him there and he can bundle up or get out of the house himself.

If none of this and setting boundaries as noted above etc. don't work I agree you have follow through and leave, at least temporarily. It would be much better if you and the kids could stay in the house, obviously, because it's less stressful for the kids plus it sounds like he won't be motivated until the house is actually foreclosed on and he is locked out. But if you can't get him to leave (not sure how that works) then you absolutely have to abandon ship before you sink entirely. If you update via a mod with your location, I am sure some people here can give specific recommendations for resources.

On preview, Ruthless Bunny has a good script.
posted by mikepop at 6:40 AM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


If he can continue to live without working and can still afford his hobby and his wants, why should any selfish person change?

The truth is that you can't fix things alone, but he can screw things up all by himself. You need to do exactly what was stated upthread. Start your own checking/savings accounts, cut off shared credit cards and freeze him out financially. He can't be allowed to torpedo your family any longer. If he can't be responsible, you will have to do it alone.
posted by inturnaround at 6:40 AM on March 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


In addition to whatever concrete suggestions others make, if you can find the strength to do the following with some kind of love and sincerity, try: help him see the _benefits_ of following the plan. Focusing only on the negative consequences he should/would/could be avoiding is no way to live; he needs to be reminded (ideally by himself) of the whole point of his existence, of his happiness, every day, maybe multiple times a day.

Of course you can't ignore the desperation of the situation. It's affecting you, you need some support from him, you can't pretend everything is all happy. But focusing only on "don't" and "we can't" and "we don't have any money" and "life is terrible (because of your job loss)" -- which he is doing in his head, even if you're super polite about it -- gives him no reason, in his gut, to try to do anything hard.

You're talking about deferring gratification. There needs to be strong motivation for that to happen. Bringing the positive future closer, by talking about it, by imagining it, by actually planning it, could help.

For a depressed person, this isn't going to show immediate benefits; you're obviously at the end of a considerable stock of patience. If you can do this, maybe just a little, it could help. Even if he shuts you down every morning, just saying something like, "I really look forward to the day that things will be better, when one of us will be working full-time and the other can focus more on the kids, and we can really put some resources into making our lives better." Make your own version. Don't follow this with a request for him -- just leave it there, until after breakfast.

Oh yeah - and make a budget that includes monthly allocations for your anticipated annual tax expenses. Post it where everybody can see it. Including allocations for next year. Somehow make it not look hopeless, and put some words near it that evoke the calm and happiness you can feel if the budget is met. Maybe include discretionary allowance for his hobby after a while.

If he's got OCD qualities, can he focus those on the budget? Minimizing grocery/utility bills? Those can be fun projects if done right.
posted by amtho at 6:41 AM on March 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't think that any solution that includes your husband is going to work. He is completely unwilling to cooperate with you.

So I have to agree with the advice to separate your finances. I would also see if you could get the mortgage transferred into your name only, because if he runs out of other lines of credit he may start taking loans out against the house.

I am not suggesting you start divorce proceedings, but I do think you would benefit from the advice of a lawyer to find out how you can protect yourself financially from your husband's recklessness.
posted by tel3path at 6:45 AM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fourthing. Because even if his depression were magically gone tomorrow, he would have deep work to do that could take years if he didn't outright refuse to do it.
posted by liketitanic at 6:48 AM on March 12, 2013


You need to get new tires and get the brakes fixed, you can't drive around like that. Sell everything you can to raise the money. Hell, sell his computer. He can go to the library to use one for job applications.
posted by mareli at 6:56 AM on March 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


Great advice here. Are there free credit/financial counseling services in your area? (Most places seem to have some version of them.) If so, maybe your husband would go with you to one of them? If not, go by yourself. They will be able to give you some objective advice on practical measures and might be able to provide referrals to a lawyer etc..

I can only imagine how difficult this is, especially when little kids are involved. Still, the bottom line in human behaviour, as far as I can tell is this: people do what works. You need to make this behaviour stop working for your husband. And, at the same time, you need to take steps that will improve life for your and your children. You're entitled to do the best you can for yourself and those you care for, and nobody's cufflinks obsession gets to trump that.
posted by rpfields at 6:59 AM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I worry that some of the communication strategies above are going to be ineffective and/or backfire. In my experience, ultimatums don't work, especially if you are not prepared to follow through on them. Tell him how you feel, but beware of timelines that will be abused (he might wait till the 29th day of a 30 day ultimatum to get help) and ignored (you might chicken out and lose your credibility).

Try communicating in a way that restores his agency instead of treating him like a naughty child, even if that's how he's acting. "When you spend money on these things/don't seem serious about looking for a job/don't appear worried about our financial situation/insert problem behavior here, I worry about you and our family and it's causing me tremendous stress. I'm not sure how much longer I can stand this situation and I'm worried about our children. Are you concerned about our financial situation? Can you help me come up with some solutions to address these issues?" Involve him in the problem and the decision making, but focus on what his behavior is doing to you, not just how you think he's acting like an irresponsible child.

At the same time, make plans to leave, if only temporarily. It will make you feel better to have the option, and the way things are going, you may actually have to do it.
posted by walla at 7:06 AM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Before you do anything, make sure you have a solid plan. Contact family members or friends that might be able to have you and your children stay with them for an extended period. Better for peace of mind to know you have a nice chunk of time to sort things out where you don't feel pressure to get out. If you can afford an apartment, do that. I'd do whatever would allow me to save maximum amount of money while I got on my feet (safely!).

Consider talking to a therapist about this. You need to create a plan that is safe for you and your kids while also deciding how that effects your husband and your marriage. Talking to someone can help keep you focused (I can see just reading this how guilt might slow thing way down–just as one example–while this is really an issue of your family's financial survival).

Before you do anything, though, talk to a lawyer. Safeguard against any problems you might be setting yourself up for down the road. Do everything to the letter so that your husband can't somehow legally manipulate things to his advantage.
posted by marimeko at 7:12 AM on March 12, 2013 [15 favorites]


I second the resources and forums at http://www.adhdmarriage.com/
There's a reason why the divorce rate is twice as high for adults with adhd. I left my first partner for the same reason, he plunged us selfishly into $60k of debt with his hobbies and addictions and our only option was bankruptcy. It was horrible, I walked away and 4 years later, he hasn't improved his life ANY. My 2nd partner was adhd as that relationship suffered a similar fate.
Focus on getting yourself and your kids into a good place and let him drown alone.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 7:14 AM on March 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Are you getting any counseling? It sounds like you could use someone to talk to that can help you let off some stress and find the emotional strength to deal with this situation. You say that you can't afford to move out, but honestly, you can't really afford to support your husband as he is now. You're too far in the foxhole to see the big picture. Get yourself help (put your oxygen mask on first), and then do what you need to do to protect yourself and your children. Your husband is a grown man, no matter how he's acting, and he needs to come last right now.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:15 AM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Separate finances, stat.
posted by flabdablet at 7:18 AM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, and a good stop-gap in the meantime might be to ditch the home internet for a while. Make him go to the library for his "job search." Having only an hour at a time to be online may curb the shopping and getting out of the house may be helpful to him.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:22 AM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Separate finances FIRST. Everything else (ultimatums, counseling, therapy, communication) is secondary. Close the shared cards. Transfer the money and any auto-payment to a new, only-you account. See if you can get his name off the mortgage. It might be a good idea to pay a lawyer for an hour to investigate other bases you can cover.

I'm concerned he might apply for a new card, which you'd automatically be responsible for too, so you might need to physically separate to prevent that because (at least in my state) once you're physically separated, transactions are no longer considered joint.

After that it's up to you. It sounds like you've been begging him to change for a while so I doubt it's going to work now, but if he doesn't have access to the money to spend on cufflinks at least you can stop worrying about that; and if you're separated his shenanigans aren't your problem. I think the time for ultimatums is AFTER you've covered your bases, which includes the separation. If he wants you back he knows what to do.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:32 AM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you talk to him before doing enough to protect yourself you risk giving him the opportunity to really screw things up. Have everything in place before you talk to him, otherwise you won't have time to protect yourself AND YOUR CHILDREN.
His being at home all the time makes things more difficult.
Do you have your own laptop? Or at least a friend whose computer you can use.
You need to find out all your financial accounts, assets, and debts. Use a computer that he does not have access to. Find out what it would take to transfer or take control of all joint accounts, including utilities.
Once you have a solid plan for separating your finances break his computer. If you use needlenose pliers to remove a few pins from the monitor cable it would buy you a few hours so that you can act on your plan without him finding out (unless he gets alerts to his phone).
'nthing see a lawyer (or two) to review the plan and how to protect yourself going forward.
posted by Sophont at 7:37 AM on March 12, 2013


If he can continue to live without working and can still afford his hobby and his wants, why should any selfish person change?

posted by inturnaround at 9:40 AM on March 12 [+] [!]


Your husband is my father from my very earliest memory until, I assume, this very day. My dad's selfishness, narcissim and complete and total fiscal irresponsibility has fucked me up in ways I'm still uncovering. You need to make yourself responsible for your money, your responsibilities, and your future for the sake of your kids. Cut him off now and see how long it takes for *something* to materially change in his behavior - without money, I can promise you it won't take long for him to react.
posted by ersatzkat at 7:38 AM on March 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Look, if it comes to turning the thermostat down to 55 if he is the only one home, forcing him to eat rice and beans, or breaking computers with needlenose pliers, then just get a divorce. If you are prepared to do those kinds of things, your marriage is over, and you should admit it.
posted by thelonius at 7:46 AM on March 12, 2013 [17 favorites]


You know the more I think about it, the more I think you need to sit down for a lawyer consult ASAP. While separating may protect you from being responsible for his financial activity, leaving the family home may have repercussions for what happens if you get a divorce. I think you need that consult before you do anything. But see if you can at least close the card and accounts so that the cufflink issue is mooted for a few days.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:47 AM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


If he's got OCD qualities, can he focus those on the budget? Minimizing grocery/utility bills? Those can be fun projects if done right.

This is not how OCD works.

I think that ditching home internet is a grand idea. And, there is no reason to go two years without a job. I understand maybe he cannot find a job in his desired field, but I can't believe that Wal-mart isn't hiring.

I think the primary issue here is his mental health. He needs a come to Jesus talk on his mental health. He won't take effective medication on principle? Do his principles also include destroying a family? That is exactly what will happen if this continues.

Also, what myselfasme said.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:02 AM on March 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


I can sympathize with the guy; depression and unemployment are hard to deal with, and feed off each other. And sometimes when you're that low and can't see straight, you do get focused on seemingly trivial things - somehow they take on extra meaning you can't quite articulate, and they seem like things you might actually be able to control. And, oh, do I understand spending money I don't have on things I don't need, and how hard it is to get from that mindset into a more practical one.

That doesn't mean he gets a pass. Marriage is a partnership of equals, and running a household is a joint effort. He is not holding up his end of the bargain. He's not even trying. He's not even taking care of himself. This is what you need to sit down and tell him.

You need to come up with a plan that both of you can agree on, and that turns things around immediately but realistically. Come up with actions that he can start immediately and make continued progress on, e.g. he applies to one job a day, he sees a therapist, he budgets $X/week for unnecessary expenditures, and so on. It will feel harsh and strict to him, and it will suck, but things need to turn around before you crash.

And one of these conditions has to be you need to be able to talk to him about money, jobs, etc. without him balking or shutting you out.

This is going to be hard. You need to be firm without being patronizing; if you give him enough leeway he'll never change (or only change enough, and for long enough, to get you off his back), but if he feels powerless he'll likely pull away from you and spin further down the shame spiral. He needs to feel like he has agency in this situation, and he needs to know you're not putting up with any bullshit.

That is, if you want to stay in this marriage. Finances aside, it sounds like things haven't been working in your relationship for a long time. I don't think you'd be wrong to meet with a lawyer and start planning your exit.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:03 AM on March 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Are these cufflinks resalable?

I think you need to give him an option: if he wants to demonstrate commitment to his family, he needs to sell the cufflinks.
posted by corb at 8:13 AM on March 12, 2013


As an occasionally frustratingly unreliable partner with ADHD and I just wanted to say three things about things from our end:

1) OF COURSE, myselfasme's advice about separating the finances, laying down the law, etc. is spot on. It does not matter from whence this behavior originates in him; he is still responsible for his own actions and should be held accountable just like anyone else. I know that's the only tack that ever works with me.
2) THAT SAID... it is entirely possible for an ADHD person who loves you and is not permanently hopeless to jam his head completely up his ass in a way that brings chaos and risks ruin to your family. Some of us ADHD types have a way of sinking pretty low and then rebounding mightily. We need to hear the riot act and get scared sometimes to do it, but we can pull it together. While, as I indicated in point one, this should not change your plan on how to proceed (let alone your understanding of his accountability), I hope that it maybe gives you some hope that things can still turn out all right.
3) EVEN IF he does pull it all together, that does not mean you're honor bound to forgive him for everything he's done. Sometimes, when ADHD people pull out of a tailspin, we have to face the hard realization that people we love can't go for rides like that anymore, because, sincerely: something similar will quite probably happen again. You can work with him and stay on him to cut the length and severity of these cycles, but they probably won't go away. It's something we can struggle with for life. Not everyone can or should hang with that. My wife can and we make it work. I am lucky. This is not my first marriage, though and my first wife could not take it. That's how it goes sometimes.

I really am sorry you have to go through this.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:15 AM on March 12, 2013 [19 favorites]


I'm struck by the fact that there is an emotional component, and a series of tasks, and another emotional component, and it might help to acknowledge them all. The emotional part I hear from you is that you have a team problem, but you are the only one on the team consistently trying to solve it. That is just so heartbreaking. Regardless of what comes afterwards, I'm assuming that you entered your marriage in the spirit of partnership, and the realization that your partner would not only NOT help you solve problems, but in fact CAUSE them, can truly cause a heart to break. I think that's why people are so reluctant to see and respond as if they accept that that is happening is happening, and instead go farther down the foxhole, financially, emotionally, etc. as they 'try to make it work'.

In a way, I think everyone here is suggesting that you, with the heaviest of hearts, respond to the situation as if you see what is happening. That your partner isn't your partner, at least not for this crisis. You want him to be. Part of him may even want to be. But for now, he's not. Maybe he doesn't want to be. Maybe he can't be, because of depression. But I'd like to imagine that somewhere in the back of every poorly behaving partner and parent's head is the clear and imploring thought to their partner/co-parent of: 'If I turn into a zombie for whatever reason, protect the kids and yourself'. And act accordingly. I think it even trumps your wedding vows, which may have been to love each other in sickness and in health, because it doesn't include being 'dragged' down, while trying to save them, and in a way, your relationship.

I think that brings up the series of tasks. The visiting a lawyer to understand your options to financially protect yourself. The reaching out to your friends (hopefully you have) to be transparent about your experience - realizing you may feel embarrassed that it's gotten to this, or that you're being harsh. The opening up a separate checking account, even before you move the money over. None of these things involve alerting your husband, but they are clear supportive, information gathering items for you. Because once you do move the money, and he becomes aware of it, it all becomes real. And it isn't clear form your post that you're yet up for the possibly long, possibly hard, and possibly not entirely thought through response from your partner once your actions come to light. And it's okay if you aren't ready for that yet. It's why people start with information and support gathering, like you're doing here, with this question.

But that's the second emotional response - perhaps feeling like you're going to have to battle him as well as the issues you're facing? Well, you already are battling him. You aren't on the same page. The only question seems to be 'in what direction will you be battling?'. Is it the one where you focus on protecting yourself and your kids, possibly letting go of your 'joint' plan because he's not/can't be jointly supportive of it right now? Because that's a heartbreaking, but entirely reasonable plan. Even depressed, he's responsible for his own actions. And if he won't be, or can't be, you can't take it on for him. You can't get him to the hospital. You can't get him to a job. You can't get him off the computer. What you can do is respond like a healthy adult. When someone is hurting you, the healthy reaction is to get out of their reach. In your worst moments, consider committing yourself to repeatedly answering the question, 'what is the healthiest thing I can do right now for myself and our kids?', and taking whatever step arises in the answer. You don't have to know all the answers now. You just need to do what you've been doing - acknowledging that it's happening, that you wish it weren't, and taking steps (finding a job, asking around for a lawyer consult, telling a friend, opening a bank account, etc.) to move back towards the light.

I am so sorry you are going through this.
posted by anitanita at 8:16 AM on March 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


What do you have to gain by staying in this marriage? Not much, except double the workload of what any spouse should have to carry. And what do you have to lose? You and your kids could wind up homeless.

Personally, I have never seen or heard any couple recover from being this far down. So many miraculous and extremely unlikely things, many of which are totally beyond your control, would need to happen for you to get back to the "salad days" of your marriage. While the scripts and suggestions are very logical attempts to FIX THINGS or LAY DOWN ORDER, they badly miss the point -- there comes a time when you have to stop putting your mental/financial/emotional resources into a losing hand.

So if even half of what you typed is factual, I think you should initiate divorce proceedings and move to protect what is left.
posted by 99percentfake at 8:29 AM on March 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I want to echo that this is really hard on your kids, too. My father was like this too. I still remember my dad buying a giant tv after being laid off for months. I was literally sick to my stomache on the way home, and deliberately stopped eating because I was so worried that we would be homeless. I was nine years old.

I only say this because I think there's always a bias toward staying together for the kids. Certainly my mom thought so, despite the fights and worry and stress. But kids are smart and perceptive, and they can tell when something's amiss. Taking care of yourself so you can provide a secure environment for your kid can often be better than a volatile two-parent household.
posted by snickerdoodle at 8:30 AM on March 12, 2013 [29 favorites]


Can you enlist any of his male friends to give him a good talking-to and a virtual kick in the rear? Frankly it sounds like that's what he needs. His self-esteem now is understandably probably very low and it's painful for him to discuss certain things with you. But it may be different with his friends.
posted by Dansaman at 8:34 AM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


If your husband was suffering from a tumor in his brain for the past 2 years, the cufflinks episode makes sense to a trained physician. He is losing his mind due to a degenerative illness - depression is exactly the same.

This is not your husband - this is the disease that's taken over his body. That's why nothing makes sense, and nothing you do is working.

Secure your finances in the next 3 days, and then get him to a psychiatrist immediately. If you have no love for him left, think of your children and future life with their father.
posted by Kruger5 at 9:55 AM on March 12, 2013


Think of the kids and their future. You can't afford to let him keep dragging you down financially. Right now he is an obstacle to your family's security and needs to be treated as such. Protect yourself and your kids.

Take the money you'd spend on therapy for him and talk to a lawyer about insulating yourself and yes, possibly making him leave. You can't prioritize maintaining the marriage in an emergency...that sounds cold, but you have to be a rock for your children right now.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:05 AM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I respectfully disagree with all those who suggest you leave him, stop supporting him, etc.

Remember this:

I've been a stay at home mom for the past decade, quitting my career when one of our children turned out to have a severe learning disability that required a lot of home support.

He supported you and your children financially for ten years. Get a full time job and work on getting him to a doctor/psychiatrist/therapist.
posted by murfed13 at 10:46 AM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


He supported you and your children financially for ten years. Get a full time job and work on getting him to a doctor/psychiatrist/therapist.

I doubt the OP was sitting on the couch eating bonbons in her bathrobe. Being a stay-at-home mom is not a picnic, okay? Especially with a child who has severe learning disabilities. And the OP's chances of getting a full-time job are not so great after being out of the workforce for ten years.

OP: If he won't get help, no matter how you try, then you need to accept the fact that you can't fix him and your marriage alone. I would have a Come to Jesus talk, but if that doesn't work, get your ducks in a row and plan your escape now.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:51 AM on March 12, 2013 [35 favorites]


First of all, I want to commend you for stepping up to the plate and doing what needed to be done during a challenging time. I suspect you are not getting much positive feedback these days for the work that you are putting in, and you deserve it. So, first things first, you need support. It's unfortunate that your husband cannot be the support or provide the positive feedback you need right now, but you should reach out to other people in your life that can provide the mental support you need - maybe a best friend or family member.

Secondly -- look, if all it took were a "come to Jesus" talk you wouldn't be posting to AskMe. I have been where you are, with a spouse with a spending problem that was dragging us down as a family. There seems to be a cultural perception that if a man has a problem with spending, it can be overcome by rational discussion. But it's pretty much like he has a problem with alcohol. If we replaced "buying stuff" with "alcohol" in your narrative, no one here would be urging you to sit him down for a budget talk, ask his best buddy to set him straight, or offer him an alcohol spending allowance. It's just not that easy.

It sounds like this has been ongoing problem for him for the duration of your marriage -- he's buys stuff to fill the hole inside. Unemployment and the attendant depression just make it worse. Having been married to someone exactly like that, I don't think there's anything *you* can do to fill that hole for him. He gets that your family is in a financial bind, but that's not enough to overcome whatever psychological hit that he gets from indulging in expensive hobbies or buying a replacement pair of cufflinks.

So I think you need to make a bunch of appointments. I know, more work. But this is work that will eventually lead to your life being easier.
1. Schedule an appointment for him to see a psychologist. This is a broad generalization, but a psychologist friend of mine notes that men rarely come in asking to be treated for depression. However, they do come in to help with "stress." That may be a way to get your husband in -- he needs help with his stress. You can't make him get the help he needs, but you can give it a try.
2. Discreetly meet with a great divorce attorney. I read a lot of fear of the unknown in your question, and maybe if you had more accurate information about how things work in your state you would feel better about any decisions you make vis-a-vis separating finances. I can't tell you if divorce is right for you or not, but only a divorce attorney can give you accurate information.
3. Reach out to your support network. You need help, too. This should include a psychologist for you, too. I would not be surprised if you aren't also dealing with some untreated depression at this stage.
4. Treat yourself and your family well. I know it feels like at this point he deserves more of the stick than the carrot, but give your husband lots of positive feedback for the stuff he does right. The women I know who have had their husbands change problematic behaviors did it by emulating dog training techniques. And love those kids! Cultivate joy and happiness with them, even though life is tough and money is tight.
posted by stowaway at 10:54 AM on March 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


[Stop arguing with other people and please make your points without calling other people names. Respectful helpful answers.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:19 AM on March 12, 2013


Instead of spending $600 on cufflinks, spend it on a lawyer and create a plan to extricate yourself from this mess. You seem to be able to support yourself just fine without the dead weight of your husband, and perhaps trial separation will be the rock bottom he needs to straighten his life out.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:30 AM on March 12, 2013


I'm no expert on these matters, but is a married couple even allowed to completely separate their finances?
posted by schmod at 11:43 AM on March 12, 2013


@schmod and OP- yes, it is legal for married persons to keep separate finances (in the US). It is immediately legal to open a checking account solely in your name for your temping checks, and it should be done immediately. As for any credit cards; anything that is solely in his name will be solely his debt responsibility, but anything in both names will have a future responsibility to you. It generally requires consent from both parties to remove a user from an account, but either person should generally be able to close the account to new purchases over the phone.

It may be ADHD-related, but emotional spending is a dangerous compulsion, especially in such a tenuous financial situation. You wouldn't stock a bar out in the open in a home with a struggling alcoholic; someone jeopardizing your kids lives with emotional spending binges doesn't get to touch the discretionary spending money. You will continue to feed and shelter him while you are together and he is either getting help or you are arranging for somewhere to stay with family when you separate, ergo you are not cutting him off completely.
posted by itsonreserve at 12:16 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, schmod, if OP is living in North America, ABSOLUTELY. The minute i walked out on my husband i went straight to the bank, stopped all direct deposits from my job into that account, took out half of what was in there and opened a new account in only my name. My ex couldn't touch it if he wanted to, and we weren't legally divorced until at least a year later.
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 12:17 PM on March 12, 2013


I have learned this from dire personal experience. Extricate yourself and your children or have him leave. I know it's stressful, but the alternative is worse, believe me.

He's an adult. Also sounds like he's not well. But that's not your job. Taking care of business is your job, and you can't do it with him undermining you. He needs to understand this. He won't, though, at least not as long as you are willing to let things go on.

It's sad, and I'm sorry, and I wish I had a better answer. It just sucks to be put in this position and it's terrible trying to get out of it. And when you're so enmired and enmeshed, it's so hard to see the upside of the other side. But's it a huge upside.

You've been given a lot of advice on how to extricate yourself and give him the heads-up. You should pick from those things that you're more comfortable doing and go with them.

I do want to put something out there that's going to sound absolutely nuts: be sure you and the kids are safe from harm. Many men end up in this situation and are able to walk away or see their families walking away with a normal level of regret and woe, or even a dealable level of anger. But some men are fractured by changes even as seemingly small as no longer having access to the bank accounts and...crazy things happen. It's the minority, definitely. A small percentage. But some do, and it's apparently not all that easy to predict which ones are going to take some incredibly scary step to make themselves feel better. This is something I would think on very carefully when making your plan, so that you are able to make the absolute best decision for yourself and the kids. If you feel there is any potential at all of the results of this line of thinking leading to fear of changing things, you should get the help of a women's sanctuary to make the changes that need to be made. They know how to do things with the least harm and most success.

Wishing you less stress and lots of strength.
posted by batmonkey at 12:45 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you move out he will become employed so fast your head will spin. So much for him being helpless to depression or whatever it is.

Please, please, please, get the work done on the car before anything else. You might feel like you can get around on the bald tires and it is okay. You have no idea how easy it is to lose control of the car and wreck on bald tires. I once had a tire suddenly come apart and I could barely make it to the shoulder of the read. Thank God I was only going 30 mph. If you got in a serious wreck and were injured what would happen to your kids?

Even if you don't feel ready to leave, please contact a women's hotline and an attorney to discuss your options. He may flip out if you take control of the money. He may ask for support payments if you divorce. Please protect yourself.
posted by cairdeas at 1:06 PM on March 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


In the UK it would be illegal to drive on bald tires and dodgy brakes. Nthing fix the car before you do anything else.
posted by tel3path at 1:12 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please consult a divorce attorney before any step to either remove him from the home, separate him from the kids, or raid the bank account - you could jeopardize your future divorce settlement.

You could make a case for such actions if you were in physical danger or he has violated the safety of the children - him unemployed or spending beyond your household budget does not absolve you from legal procedures. He has also not been medically diagnosed with depression either.

(every state has their own laws - seek local counsel prior to action).
posted by Kruger5 at 1:41 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do you have a throwaway email address?
posted by prefpara at 2:15 PM on March 12, 2013


Something similar happened to a friend of mine, which I relay because it sounds quite similar to your situation and it dragged out for years, and is still an issue two years after separation.

He lost his job (quit in a tantrum), she was working full-time, but still had the kids in childcare because he just lay on the sofa playing computer games and wouldn't take care of them. Wouldn't admit to depression, wouldn't do any of the homework from couples counselling. This went on for years. She eventually got him to leave (not sure how), but it involved remortaging the house to give him a chunk of the equity. Two years later, he's still unemployed, has spent all the money and can't pay his rent, and when offered some work from a friend where he would need to be ready to be picked up at 7am, said he didn't think he could manage to get up by then. He hasn't quite hit the bottom because his parents give him money and my friend occasionally gives him some money (because she wants him to still spend time with the kids and he says he can't take them because he doesn't have any money to buy them food). The kids are relatively young still and yet they have picked up very well on these different models of being an adult. Even if he is depressed, if he won't do anything about it at all (or won't take his ADHD medication on principle), you can't all go down with the sinking ship.
posted by AnnaRat at 2:57 PM on March 12, 2013


I'm no expert on these matters, but is a married couple even allowed to completely separate their finances?

Allowed by whom? You can structure your finances however you want, and lots of couples have separate accounts.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:56 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


@schmod and OP- yes, it is legal for married persons to keep separate finances (in the US). It is immediately legal to open a checking account solely in your name for your temping checks, and it should be done immediately.

For emphasis: Immediately means tonight, on the web, or tomorrow morning in person. Regarding Kruger5's comment, avoid removing funds already in a joint deposit account if you can.


You should be able to close any jointly held credit card accounts to new purchases (though you will not be able to close the account entirely without paying it off) which in conjunction with the new account might prevent the cufflinks replacement, though you may not wish to do that if you don't have other lines of credit available. (Or you may wish to open a new in individual card first, if you can. That's also something you can find out online, tonight.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:09 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


He went silent-angry and spent the rest of the morning glaring at me without any further response. (In case you're wondering, the goddamn replacement cufflinks would cost upwards of $600, I looked it up later).

You don't deserve that and neither do your kids. Your husband is acting like a child while you're tearing your hair out. Your kids need you. He's not even acting like your partner or a member of your family.

I feel like it's not long until he leaves you guys, or becomes the dad who divorces you then joins men's rights groups to scream about how unfair it is to have to pay child support. He may convince himself that you forced him in this situation to be responsible for more than himself. It doesn't really matter. The kids matter. They need to grow up in as stable an environment and situation as financially possible. They shouldn't suffer because their father can't muster up the sense of responsibility necessary to fulfill his role in the family.

You need to protect your kids and the first step is accepting that your husband is being selfish and uncommunicative. That's on him and you can't do anything about it. It's on you now to provide a stable home for your kids and make plans that don't include your husband contributing to that stability.

It's happened to a lot of women before and it will happen again and again in the future to other women. You just have to accept it and start making plans to leave. Your kids deserve better. They don't have a dad who can place their well being above his own problems. He's just not that kind of guy. And most importantly, he's not your child. He's an adult who is shirking his responsibilities.
posted by discopolo at 8:17 PM on March 12, 2013


Some people have a completely destructive relationship with spending, and no amount of rationality is going to help with it.

I am one of these people. And I'm 40, and married, and I have two kids. The only thing that worked, ever, was basically taking responsibility for being a financial alcoholic. There are a lot of similarities.

I cannot have credit. One credit card is too many. Given half a chance, I will overdraw our checking account because I won't exercise proper impulse control.

So.

In our household, by conscious choice between my wife and I, I am required to actively participate in our financial planning. I must be part of the budgeting process, I must remain employed and continue to bring in income, and I have to discharge certain responsibilities, like making sure the tuition check gets dropped off.

However, I have no participation, at all, in our spending. I have proven that I cannot be trusted with it. I've been given plenty of chances, and the plain and simple truth is that I am not a responsible steward of our money.

I am a financial alcoholic, and it's my responsibility to remember that constantly. I am responsible for my problem and for manning the fuck up and accepting that I made this bed with my choices. This is the consequence.

I do not get to do whatever I want and then claim "I couldn't help it," because I know I have this problem, and it's my responsibility to avoid situations where I'm likely to fail.

Responsibility isn't about owning up to fucking up, and saying "my fault". Responsibility is about being self-aware enough to not put yourself in a place where you'll fuck up in the first place.

From your description, your husband has abdicated responsibility, but is not facing real consequences for that choice. You are, and your kids are. That needs to stop, right now. And that's the best lesson you can show your kids: actions have consequences. If he's going to do this, then on his head be it. Your commendable patience and unbelievable ability to absorb punishment are masking him from the consequences.

And, yes, sometimes things are a Really Big Deal. It is not okay for him to harm your children's lives to make himself feel good. No matter what the reason. And that's what he's doing. So you need to trust your instincts, and get yourself and your kids out of this situation. He's made his choices. Now he needs to pay the bill for them.

I am sorry you are in this situation, but you are in it, neck-deep, and you need to get out and get stable before anything else.
posted by scrump at 11:38 PM on March 12, 2013 [22 favorites]


This has been going on a very long time, and now has risen to a level that is unsupportable. Your kids come first, and at this rate, they may be homeless soon. It sounds like depression or some other illness is behind this, given how irrational it is, but I can't imagine he could get himself fixed, (even if he was willing to) in time to not drag you all down with him. It is too late for that, and getting his head straight will take _years._ You and your kids do not have time for that. You sound like you have been through hell, and I can't imagine how stressful things might be for you.

The only way to make things right is:

--don't leave the house
--hide the finances (and hide your purse and passwords)
--kick him out and legally separate

He can work on his issues with therapy/meds, or not, you can go through with the divorce or not, but either way he won't be taking you all down with him. Maybe he will be able to turn things around, and if so, he can always come back and you can start again. But he's made it clear that he's not willing to work on his mental health, or try his best to find a job, any job, and he's not willing to stop himself from committing financial suicide.

You really have no other choice. You can't afford to stay with him even one more month. It sounds like you have been heroic in trying to keep an unsupportable situation together as long as you possibly could. It's all going to blow up real soon. Your kids come first.
posted by ravioli at 1:31 PM on March 13, 2013


OP, if you have time, please follow up with the mods so we can see how you are doing!
posted by lalochezia at 4:37 AM on March 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you're going to stay in a house with him while you work on this, consider removing anything that you find valuable (either monetarily or emotionally) and get a safe or a safety deposit box or store them with a friend.

And consider keeping your wallet, purse, passport, car keys, etc in a safe.
posted by reddot at 1:38 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the OP:
I appreciate everyone's responses, they were very helpful and eye-opening. Many of the responses, particularly the ones from people who grew up in similar families, broke my heart. To all who shared their personal stories, I'm so so very sorry for what you went through and sincerely thank you for telling me...your words were a gift which I cannot directly repay but will try to pay in action. I'm still sorting through all the comments and suggestions, I need to sort and digest because there are many parts of a plan in there, I just don't know yet what its final form will be but I'm working on it.

Here's where things are 3 days after SO first announced he was buying cufflinks* and 2 days after this AskMe was posted:

On the good news front: we've always kept separate bank and credit accounts, sharing only one joint checking & savings which we've put in all income and paid all bills from. From here on out, the money I earn will be going into my own accounts where I will continue to use it to pay household expenses. I will not be paying his credit card bills out of joint, if he wants those bills paid he can pay for them out of his own checking (which, last I checked, was down to a few bucks. Not my problem.) I don't feel as guilty as I thought I would doing this, I thought about it for a day and remembered we were DINKs for well over 10 years and I paid for the entirety of this house's down payment from my own savings, so yes, I'm no bonbon-eater.

I am going to make therapy appointments just for me, asking the same therapist we used for couples way back if he would be willing to work on a sliding scale. He also does individual counseling, I had a good rapport with him, and he knows the back-story so hopefully he will go for it, otherwise, I'll find a therapist who will. After bursting into a bone-deep crying jag while reading several supportive comments here, I realized I'm in desperate need of help in unearthing and processing all the emotions I've been suppressing. I also finally realized yesterday a little bit of how much I've papering over, my attitude thus far as been to put my head down and just plow the row but as a friend (whom I shared this thread with! I've never aired so much dirty laundry in so much detail to a friend before) pointed out: "That's great but you are going to die with that plow around your neck." I need to make sure I continue to work on opening up to supportive friends rather than to fall back into the default of busying myself in stamping out fires and I'm now just understanding a good way of doing that is telling others so I keep myself accountable in moving forward. Responding with this update is another way I'm setting myself up for accountability: whenever I re-read this thread in the future, here's my starting to-do list right near the bottom, written in a moment of sincerely pissed off clarity.

On the Needs Lots More Work front:

I need to acknowledge how hurt I've been by my SO and what a shitty marriage this has been. That's hard to face because doing so feels like I've wasted my life and irreparably harmed my children. Will discuss this with the therapist because I need a more hopeful, productive narrative.

Once I've steadied my emotional feet under me a bit, I will consult with an attorney to understand what I can/can't do should I decide to proceed with a separation. I have many questions but I'd like to get through the consult with some resolve (and without bawling).

Later that afternoon (after I submitted this AskMe but the day before it was posted anon) I asked my SO to please open up to me about what was going on, that getting stuck on the cufflinks was worrying me, and I wanted to understand and help if I could. He gave me the dead fish stare again and said we would talk about it later. Recalling that never once in the long history of our relationship have we ever 'talked about it later' unless I broach the topic again, I waited until the next day for him to get it together. When 24 hours came and went with no sign of him of him changing his shirty attitude nor getting ready to talk, I told him that as he was unwilling to discuss it, I wanted him to hear how I felt. This is different than how I have handled past 'talk about it later' incidents, in the past I've always tried to actually have a two-way discussion but this time I wanted him to hear me. I told him I was profoundly hurt and extremely angry that he was even considering replacing an unneeded luxury item. I told him I did not understand how anyone could waste that much energy and time on something that is such a non-priority at the expense of his job search. I told him I felt like I did not have a partner and that made me feel sad and alone. He stared at me for a while and then said, "I don't know how to respond to that." At which I blew up and shouted, "You could say, 'I found a job' that's what you could say!" So clearly, SO and me continue to have a fundamental breakdown in communication and a completely unworkable and disrespectful way of interacting with each other. To this, I accept equal responsibility and will strive to change my own delivery. The ADHD Marriage site looks particularly very helpful here and I will also work on this with the therapist.

After I erupted, he stopped trawling eBay, spent the next day attending job search courses that a local nonprofit hosts (for the first time after registering several months ago), and has spent the last 24 hours being very 'present', chatty, and busy. If past history holds, he will burn out and return to being an uncommunicative lump in front of the screen** within the week. To better help me hold him accountable, I've started to journal our interactions and my feelings about them in detail because I realized I fix, forgive, and forget. Forgiving does not mean forgetting and thank you DirtyOldTown for cluing me in on that one.

I accept more and more that it appears we are not cut out for each other, which is a very sad realization to make after so many years. If we stay together, it will only because we both managed to forgive our differences and work hard to focus on our affection for each other. However, I beginning to understand how that may not be enough and for either of us to compromise to accommodate the other's needs seems to mean having to walk in very uncomfortable territory. I do not want to go to my grave living like this nor will I allow my children to look back wondering WTF I didn't do something, so at this point I am no longer willing to compromise on what I want for myself and my children and in my partner. If this means that he cannot fill that role and pronto, then that's what it means and we are done.

I'm buying new tires on Saturday. Brakes are going have to wait until after taxes.

Throwaway is askme237036@gmail.com. Thank you all again for your thoughtful responses, see what good you've done?

*I used "cufflinks" because he spent the past week googling the name of [Real Thing] that he misplaced and I was afraid that because Google weighs AskMe so high that a post filled with [Real Thing's] name would shoot to the top of the search results.
**most of my contract work is done from home using my own computer thus the net connection cannot be shut down, although I think that in our particular relationship doing so would be about as effective as putting a Hello Kitty bandaid over a sucking chest wound. We've been on the rice & beans diet for months though, speaking of sucking.
posted by jessamyn at 6:18 PM on March 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


jessamyn: "I need to acknowledge how hurt I've been by my SO and what a shitty marriage this has been. That's hard to face because doing so feels like I've wasted my life and irreparably harmed my children. "

This would only be true if you had never understood these realities.

Your life begins now. You have been learning, not wasting, and the fact that you care about your kids will lead you through helping them.

You are awake, with your eyes open. This, in and of itself, is more than most people ever achieve, and you must recognize it for the triumph it is.

Good luck, and good fortune, and I have sent you email so that you can, if you need, contact a friend you've never met.
posted by scrump at 9:13 PM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm glad we could help. Sometimes you just need a group of people telling you that, no, you're not crazy, your situation is.

You sound like you have your shit together and that you're strong and I'm sure you and your kids will be fine.

Hang in there, it won't be easy, but it will be worth it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:50 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the Needs Lots More Work front:

So good to see somebody looking their troubles square in the face and dealing with them. Well done you.
posted by flabdablet at 9:04 AM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


You sound amazing and strong. It is not easy to make major change. Kudos to you for grabbing the bull by the horns. Remember you are doing this for your kids.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:23 AM on March 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I suggest you put a fraud alert on the credit reports of everyone who lives in the house. Sadly it's not uncommon for parents to open fraudulent credit accounts in the names of their minor children.
posted by bq at 2:36 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


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