Question 

My husband has some chemical imbalances from his childhood, it appears.  He was diagnosed as an adult with ADHD. He then began exhibiting severe anxiety and would not sleep for days.  He also suffers from depression. He lost his previous marriage and eventually lost his law practice. He has been “treated” with a host of medications. I am his third wife and we married 18 months ago. Now that I have actually been living with him, I have seen the behaviors he cannot hide. He appears to have developed immunity to his current medications. His behavior is now to the point that all he does is stir up contention, argue, and won’t let anyone speak. He doesn’t listen and interrupts. He says I am abusing him and blames me, everything else and other things instead of himself for his issues.

I do not know what to do to help him. He threatened me that if I discussed his medications with anyone we were through. He refuses to allow me to go with him to his doctor visits. I would like to sit down with his doctor, but I want to be sure he will help him and/or refer him to a reputable psychiatrist or neurologist and not drop him as a patient.

I want to help him, but he doesn’t want my help. He wants to blame me as the reason he is taking all these meds. What can I do?  Should I give up on trying to be there for him and let him figure it out?

Answer

Your husband needs to be in charge of his own mental and physical health. Even though you can do things to assist him by attending doctor appointments and researching solutions, he is ultimately in charge of the train of consequences that follow self-neglect.

Even though you might have all of the answers and know what to do to best help him, if he isn’t interested in what you have to say, there is nothing you can do to force him to get medical help. The only exception to this rule is if he becomes a serious danger to himself or others and needs to be admitted to a hospital or psychiatric unit. In that case, you would contact the police and have them intervene.

It’s awful to stand by and watch a loved one self-destruct and then have them blame it on you. If he’s not open to getting professional help from counselors or physicians, then I recommend you find a good counselor who can help you learn to set healthy boundaries so you can navigate the maze of options you have in front of you.

While you are powerless to move him toward treatment, you are never powerless to make decisions about your own life and how you will respond to him. Make sure you’re not minimizing any safety concerns. If he’s been aggressive or made physical threats or gestures toward you or those you love, make sure to take measures to protect yourself. If he is impulsive and aggressive, you don’t want to put yourself in harm’s way.

If he still wants to be in a relationship with you, then you can decide what you’re willing to do and not do in relation to him. Perhaps you need space and want to sleep in separate rooms. Perhaps you refuse to engage in arguments or conversations unless they’re respectful. You can teach him how you expect to be treated.

I highly recommend you attend a family support meeting sponsored by the LDS Addiction Recovery Program. These meetings are free of charge and allow you to gather with other family members who are learning how to heal from the effects of a loved one’s addictive behavior. It doesn’t matter if your husband has an addiction or not. The principles shared in the manual and the group meetings will help you learn how to regain your sanity and find peace through the Atonement. You can locate a meeting here and download a free copy of the manual: http://addictionrecovery.lds.org/spouses-and-families?lang=eng

Don’t set boundaries so you can change his behavior. That’s not the goal. Instead, think of boundaries as a statement of where you will stop. You don’t have to chase him down and make him behave. You can stand back and stay centered in a place of health so you can keep your sanity. From this place, you’ll make better decisions about where to go.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com 

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves as the primary chorister. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT