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Couples With One ADHD Partner

Financial stability???

My husband has adhd and is awesome, but he is very hyper, and is always “running to the store” to get cigarettes and soda, or nickel-and-diming us into near bankruptcy. We are always getting utilities shut off or bank overdrafts, even though on paper, we should be living a lower middle class/middle class lifestyle (about 50k/yr between the two of us?). We make too much money for government assistance, and my husband can be very stubborn and defensive if I make suggestions.

My husband has been taking adderall for the past few months, but I haven’t notice any change in the crazy spending. I don’t know what to do, and am worried for our future and especially my kids’ futures? Therapy might be an option, but we can’t afford that. Can you please help? I have no idea and am constantly stressed and depressed. I know he can’t just “snap out of it”, but we can’t keep living like this. Thank you.


My husband and I have been having the exact same struggle for 17 years and actually did have to declare bankruptcy - that was before diagnosis.  But overspending is an impulse control issue, an ADHD symptom.  Impulse control can be all sorts of things, blurting out things that are inappropriate or rude or just out of the blue because they cannot tell their brain to wait, stop, that statement doesn’t fit.  It can also be things like just being distracted by the next new thing all the time.  It is a very serious issue as it has real life consequences.  I would suggest you find out if your insurance covers therapy, it just may.  Even a few sessions will help him to understand that the spending is not a character issue - it is a part of an ADHD symptom.

What you can’t expect is that he can just stop, as you point out. So you do have to talk about it.  My husband, I must say is better, but not certainly what I would call frugal and just barely spends within our means.  It has taken us years and hundreds of discussions to get him to this point.  I don’t expect it will ever get better from here.

Some years ago I took over the book, banking, investing, etc.  My husband now carries no credit cards and I would rather he not have an ATM card at all.  He does make some tips through his work and he uses these for his personal expenditures but he blows though cash like water and then spends “family” money for his own needs and wants.  No one else in the family gets to spend like he does but since it is a little here and there he figures it balances out.  It doesn’t.  He takes more resources, time, attention, food, everything than anyone in the family and is largely clueless about it.  I think part of it is he feels he is entitled to it because he works, but part of it is denial.  Our finances get better to the extent that my husband is easy going about the reality of our finances and not in denial or defensive.

I wish I had a steadfast method of getting to better, but I don’t.  We have made a hash of talking about finances.  I tend to get really upset about little spending that adds up because it stresses me out.  He gets defensive and that doesn’t help either.  But little by little he has realized through therapy and reading about ADHD that this is something he has to keep a lid on.

Do take control of your expenses though to the fullest extent you can.  Insist that he get some therapy even if it is only a few sessions.  Encourage him to read about the disorder so that he can try to not take it so personal (this is hard!) and put money aside in a place HE CANNOT GET TO so that you have emergency cash and savings.  Even if it is only a few dollars here and there it doesn’t matter, something is better than nothing.  Something makes you feel hopeful and somewhat in control, nothing put away makes you feel hopeless.

Best to you.  Let us know how it goes.

Posted by YellaRyan on Jul 10, 2014 at 1:04am

My husband (undiagnosed ADHD) does not touch our finances, and he is the first to admit that’s the way it has to be. I am responsible for all bank accounts and all bills. My husband does not have an ATM/debit card and has only one credit card for weekly expenditures like gas and food during work. I hate that he has no idea what our financial picture looks like, but that’s the way it has to be, or our finances would be much more grim.

If you can, give your husband a weekly “allowance” of cash and have him surrender his cards. We have found that it’s a lot harder to spend cash—it’s more painful to see the cash dwindle in your hands.

A budget can be an impulsive spender’s best friend, if implemented correctly and USED. Here are a couple articles on ADHD-friendly budgeting: and

This article on marriage to an ADHD spouse addresses financial issues and how to work through them as well:

I know many people who follow Dave Ramsey’s teachings on finance as well ( My husband and I used his envelope system when first married.

Lastly, see if you can find some free or low-cost financial counseling. Sometimes churches and community service organizations offer this.

Keep the conversation on finance going between you.

ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Jul 10, 2014 at 2:30pm

MY husband is a FINANCIAL PLANNER…we have endured bankruptcy, and are losing our home…not sure where to go, from here…ADD has destroyed us. Any suggesstions?

Posted by enough on Jul 11, 2014 at 12:02am

Thanks for your great responses; I really appreciate it.

I will have to see about counseling, because we will probably need to file for bankruptcy (I have seen a lawyer regarding it, but can’t afford the fees), we have about $40 in the bank right now and our heat is shut off. I have offered to take care of the bills and budget for years, but my husband is the main “breadwinner” and is frustratingly stubborn. If I ask how much he deposits into the bank, he says, “don’t worry about it”, but when everything crashes down, he says that he needs help from me. It doesn’t work both ways!

I really like the separate accounts/no debit card idea for my husband, if I could ever get him to give those things up. I need to try, because without it, we have no future. I don’t even know if he cares about that or not…it’s a bit off-topic, but I’m also kind of wondering if divorce might be an option, to give our kids a better life? I don’t know…thank you though

Posted by Leonta on Jul 11, 2014 at 12:54am

Cash only. I am the adhd person in the relationship, and yes I resent budgets,  but that is better than bankruptcy.
When the only thing you have is cash you have a visual reminder, when it’s gone, it’s gone. No matter how impulsive you are, you can’t spend what you no longer have. In terms of medication,  due to clinical depression I am on Effoxor,  and wellbutrin. The Wellbutrin helps to keep the impulsive episodes in check.  It is always a battle,  between responsibility and desire, but it is not about just me now. I had to grow up for my family, they should not suffer because of my illness.

Posted by jenbrown13 on Jul 13, 2014 at 5:39pm

Thank you so much, jenbrown13.

Posted by Leonta on Jul 14, 2014 at 10:12am

I just have to chime in here because there is no shame in bankruptcy.  Yes, it feels like it, but it shouldn’t.  It is a system that was set up for the purpose of preventing destitute and indebted citizens.  If you need it to survive you need it.  The stigma is what is really painful. But who knows where that stigma came from.

What you have to do is sit down with yourself and ask yourself some very important questions.

Is avoiding embarrassment/shame more important to me that our financial stability? 
—I am sure there are some people who stand on a moral platitude of “I pay my bills, I’m not a deadbeat” and that is fine.  But that is the stigma talking.  What really would happen?  Your friends and family would know to the extent you yourself told them.  You won’t lose your house and you can keep your car (if you have payments as long as you can pay).  I decided it was the right thing for my family because I was paying out hundreds of dollars in credit card payments - more than rent and car payment combined (ADHD spending at work) and had two small growing children I literally could not afford to keep buying clothes for.  Forget any sort of vacation, retirement plan, etc.

Can I learn enough from this experience to not get into this situation again?
—There may not be any point in declaring bankruptcy if you cannot wrestle your finances away from your spouse and they are the ADHD partner, or you feel you would just end up in the same position again.  You really should think this one through with an open mind, a little research, and come common sense.  Finances for a family are not hard really, they are just stressful.  Most of us bury our head in the sand until something goes wrong.  If you can change your perspective to one of feeling like this is an opportunity you will be much better off.

Can I, if I really reorganize and curtail spending, realistically get out of debt?
—If you know, for instance, that your ADHD spouse is never ever going to give up his ATM card and he will not curtail his spending no matter what stress or looming financial disaster awaits then you will have to think of another option.  If you sit down and do the math and figure how much you need and how much want can go and come up with enough money to actually be knocking down your debt, then you should try that first.  It will be a great lesson and reassure you that you are no deadbeat who “just doesn’t want to pay your bills” (that stigma again).

Do I have so much debt that I will never get out from under it assuming our income stays roughly the same?
—The big false sell to us Americans once upon a time was to hunker down and keep that debt because our income would just keep rising as we stayed in jobs loyal to our company etc.  The recession gave the lie to that scenario so you have to now be realistic about income and not presume too much more than you already have. There is a simple calculation - do you have more in debt than two years of your total income.  So if you have double your annual income in debt there is no way you will ever be able to pay it off.  And that can be the turning point, knowing that no matter how “good and honorable” you are you are never going to accomplish the goal of being debt free because of interest rates.

It is not an easy decision but make it sensible and without emotion if possible.  If it is necessary, it is necessary.

Posted by YellaRyan on Jul 23, 2014 at 10:10pm

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