Marriage close to collapse due to hus... - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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Marriage close to collapse due to husband handling of my son with ADHD


Hi. I’m new to this platform and felt I had to talk to someone as I’m at my wits end. My husband has always found it difficult to understand our sons struggle with regulating his behaviour and often is rude to him such as ‘ do u ever stop talking’ to name a few. The last straw for came the other night when we were playing cards and my son was being chatty, and my husband told him to stop talking and concentrate. I suggested to my husband that this is a friendly game with friendly banter, surely that’s ok? Then my son, being a boy made a butt joke. Then my husband totally lost it, yelling at him to grow up then unbelievablely went and destroyed his jigsaw puzzle. My son was crying in shock. I literally could not believe this was happening. I should mention my husband had had a few drinks at this stage. I m am over the way he talks to him, belittles him. I literally cannot stand it anymore. Then the next morning my husband wouldn’t even talk to him, my son heart broken. Has anyone else entercounted this extreme with their partner? 😒😒

20 Replies

I’m so sorry your son is going through this. My experience is similar to yours. My (now ex) of 8 years, who would have been my son’s stepfather, would belittle him by saying (often in a very loud angry voice) things like “you always do ‘fill in the blank’ behavior” or “you never finish anything, just get finished”. My son’s medication would kill his appetite making our evening meal a challenge. On one occasion, my ex pounded his fist on the table multiple times while screaming, spit flying from his mouth “EAT. YOUR. FOOD!!” I lost my appetite as well. Keep in mind, my ex was 6’4” 280#.

Shorty after I left my ex, my son told me how happy he was to be out of the house and away from him. I never truly understood just how unbearable life was for my son until we got out and he finally felt he could tell me how horrible it was for him. I also found out about some things that my son didn’t want to tell me at the time. He was afraid that I would discuss it with my ex and there would be retaliation against him.

I am not suggesting that ending your relationship is the solution... just that it was for me. AND that you’re not alone.

Welcome to the blog! We are so excited you are here to join us. This is a challenging journey for everyone. No excuses for behavior that is not appropriate. From what I have experienced it is very hard for many fathers to understand why their child acts the way the do and deal with it.

I do not have any right answers, but I know having all the tools for our son has made a huge difference. I know it is very hard especially at the end of the day to deal with our sons immature, impulsive behavior. I make sure that he has gotten all his energy out and that he is either doing something ( drawing, rubric cubes, puzzle, etc.) so that we can all have a peaceful evening. It is the worse when he doesn't have something to do.

The tools that help children and families the most are: therapy, parent education of how to raise a child with ADHD, medication for the child and an educational plan. From what we have experienced our son needs all of these things.

We don't have all of the answers, but things get much better the more the child can mature and help around the house.

Big hug for all your struggles.

Take care

It could be that your husband’s emotional response has many layers. Frustration is an obvious one that we all understand, right? It takes a lot of patience and empathy to raise a child with ADHD!

But for a parent (especially the parent who’s not as “down in the trenches” as the other parent learning about all the aspects of ADHD), this can all be unfolding in a scary way. Not only scared for your child’s future, but also scared as in the apple may not fall far from the tree. It may bring back their own similar childhood memories...they may realize as they become more familiar with ADHD that this something they have also struggled with growing up and perhaps in some ways still do. I don’t know if this is the case for your husband of course, but I’ve read that 50% of parents of children with ADHD also have some level of ADHD themselves. That’s shocking to figure out about yourself as an adult. Fear is said to be our most powerful emotion which makes it the most difficult to contain.

That might help explain his adult tantrum? Not sure, but I do know that if he contains acting this way, your son will suffer greatly over the years. A child with ADHD already has a lot more challenges so they need all the positive support as possible.

All kids today are at risk for depression and generalized anxiety it’s sad to it’s even more so for kids with ADHD. I don’t want to sound extreme but I want to be super serious with you about the risk of debilitating self esteem effects after years of experiencing what you don’t want to have regrets later.

Take your husband’s actions as a red flag. He’s waving it, asking for help desperately. I know, you’ve already got your hands full with your child, but he’s also going to need it for the good of the family. You’re stronger than you even know yet!

Pebbles222 in reply to bdhb96

You are spot on and that is my greatest concern that his self esteem ( my son) is already impacted and will be more so by my husband’s continual way of dealing with him. That it will impact his adult life actually haunts all the time. The same old line that I’m am letting him get away with stuff blah blah. I say we need to be patient, explain, and not ‘punish’ , my husband’s favourite line. I know I have some serious thinking to do. He is a wonderful father in other ways and my son adores him. Thankyou for your worldly advice much much appreciated 😊


I totally understand what you’re going through. My son was diagnosed at age 7. Now he’s 13. He has ADHD and executive functions disorder. He struggled at school so much and then on the top of everything, my husband was telling him how badly he is behaving, that he was lazy not doing homework, yelling at him, punishing him. Almost every family activity including playing games was ruined. My husband would tell him “ we can’t do anything fun because of you “. Made me cry , made our son cry. Then, me and my husband would argue so much because I didn’t like the way he was treating our son. I was devastated seeing my son struggles and how it affected our relationship and how my husband couldn’t understand, that our son’s behavior was beyond his control. Sadly, our son will blame himself for everything that was happening in the house. I was angry, overwhelmed, stressed and sad. I started imagining how my and my son’s life would be better without my husband. But the same time I worried about raising our children by myself. I decided to reach out to the counselor and set up family therapy. My husband agreed to going with me. Well, not at first. I knew if I tell him “you don’t know how to handle this “ he would not go. Instead, I said we all are struggling and we all need to get help.

The therapist helped us so much, finally my husband realized his mistakes. Not only that, but the reason my husband was impulsive and had absolutely no patience was because he has ADHD. It was never diagnosed or treated. He was always short tempered. I had no idea it was ADHD. Learning about ADHD and coping skills, different strategies and medication was the key to a better life. I’m going to be honest. It’s not perfect but definitely better. They still argue and get frustrated easily. But both of them learned when to walk away before problem escalated to calm down and continue their conversation in a respectful way. I was praising my husband’s good behavior as I learned at our family therapy how important is positive reinforcement.

I want you to know that you are an amazing mom and you know what’s best for your child. Please get as much support as you can. I talked to other moms and sadly their husbands are not supportive at all. If feels like their lack of knowledge about ADHD and feeling powerless is causing it to act that way. This kind of environment it’s taking away “ victim’s” self esteem to the point they feel hopeless. It requires a lot of effort from both parents to raise a child with ADHD. I hope you will find the right solution and I wish you all the best.

Take care❤️

Pebbles222 in reply to annett26

We had a big chat today and we made slight progress in that he agreed to watch some parenting vidoeos on ADHD. We have done counselling before briefly but I don’t think we did it for long enough. Maybe I need to find one with ADHD specifically similar to what u did. I husband has mentioned that as a child he had some obessive compulsions so yes there may be a link there to him having something of that nature. Thankyou for your advice, it really struck a cord with me. I’m glad things have improved somewhat for your family. 😊

Hello,Adding to what previous posters and @annett26 stated- you are all struggling is a really great way to suggest getting help. If your husband is unwilling to try, then considering the long-term impact on your son’s self-esteem, should be the priority. I don’t like using the word should but in this instance, children’s mental health and supporting their best chances for healthy emotional development is critical for giving them the best opportunity to feel good about themselves , have positive peer relationships and to make good choices as they grow into adulthood.

We all have things in life we can’t control that can negatively impact us, please really consider the things you do have control over, which is getting help. If your husband won’t go, having support for yourself can help you sort out which pathway is right for you and your son going forward and this is something you don’t have to go through alone.

Speaking personally, the help we got after the diagnosis was incredibly helpful for me in having more compassion for my son over the things he was not able to help- it led to fewer power struggles over the dreaded ‘should’ statement, allowed me to take my own time outs when I need it so I could return to whatever struggle was happening with a clearer and more patient head, and it improved our relationship tenfold. It normalized the frustrating parts of having a child with ADHD, but more importantly allowed me to focus more on celebrating the many wonderful parts of my son. My husband and I are still in counselling but we’ve come a long way since the beginning...and it was NOT good at the beginning. But we were at a point where if things did not change, I wanted a separation as the frequency of arguments at home was negatively impacting our son, and all of our mental health. I still plan to have counselling for my son, but the real issues we were dealing with were relationship and parenting differences, which needed to be dealt with first before bringing our son into it. Each day is a new day, and I wish you the best as you work out your next steps...reaching out to share your concerns is a great first step.

Thanks for your advice. U all have been so wonderful and helpful, and that I’m not alone. My husband, similar to all of yours need to hear it from professionals about how best to deals with our beautiful children. Us ‘ nagging’ them just doesn’t work. I think he he has sensed that I’m at my wits ends, that something has to give, which is him. Though I do worry that even if we did separate, he would get 1/2 custody, which could definitely end up worse for my son. Trying to get him educated again with a professional is the path I’m striding for. Glad things have improved for tiger family . All the best 😀

Thank you for posting. I have similar issues. My husband had ADHD also. I appreciate reading the replies. Such a great community! Thank you all.

I am the ADHD parent in our house and I find myself saying some of these things. We feed off of each other sometimes and it's awful. Hang in there and do the counseling. My son and I go together. My husband does not have ADHD and every now and then he says things like this as well. You must have the patience of a saint, I applaud you for that. Spread the grace you give your son around, it is very hard to parent these kids day in and day out and honestly it does feel like they suck the fun right out of life at times. We shouldn't say it to them, but it is sadly true. When the kids struggle, the whole house struggles sadly. Hang in there. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has done wonders for our family.

I do tell my son if he is being annoying but I say it in a different tone of voice. I want to make sure he understands that some behaviors are socially annoying, annoying to everyone. It's extra tough in our house bc we have a second child without ADHD and things are just SO much easier with him.

Tell your husband to try and just talk to your son. I found that with my son, whom has a severe case of ADHD, I have to step out of my normal mind set, and just interact with him. I know it's very difficult. Tell your husband he isn't alone, and don't take this the wrong way, but he shouldn't let a child defeat him. Once you interact with them in their spectrum, you'll see how great they really are. I think these children are just highly misunderstood.

Dollars to donuts, your husband has an undiagnosed disorder himself. Which would explain the uncontrollable emotion. In addition, his own denial and anxiety about himself are being challenged. My dad was like this with my younger brother who had ADHD and it had long lasting ramifications. I see that in one of your above comments, you mention that your husband had some obsessive compulsions? My dad most likely had OCPD and it was a really poor fit with my brother’s adhd. I really hope you can get your husband to see the light and accept your son - and that, if necessary, your husband can get help for himself. Hang in there - you are definitely not alone.

Raising a kid with ADHD puts huge stress on our marriages. Part of it is that our interactions tend to be all about managing the kids issues, & we lose everything that made the marriage work in the first place. We all slip up when our stress levels are high, especially when the behaviors are excessively annoying. But, it’s critical that your husband owns his slip up & talk to his boy later when he’s calm. He should apologize. You need to talk to him about his stress level & how he MUST manage it. Open & honest discussion time! His reactions can create co-morbid anxiety disorders. Also, your son may learn that insults & berating is the way to treat others & I bet he doesn’t want that. If he refuses or thinks this is all ok, go to plan B. I find it interesting he gets pissed about toilet humor. Most men are nine year olds at heart, totally in on the humor usually to moms chagrin. Sorry to be blunt, but these are small traumas that will add up and last a lifetime for your son. I know from experience

Such a wonderful community here as usual! So good to see people helping each only others who are (or have been) going thru the same challenges can understand.

I had some additional thoughts.

I’d read somewhere that the ratio of positive to negative experiences needs to be something like 5:2 in order to do no harm to self esteem. It’s pretty impossible to not have things go off the tracks ever, so know that the majority of the parent feedback to the child needs to be encouraging....and then when things do go sideways, be sure to circle back for a heart-to-heart talk when things are calmed down with clear thinking remembering ‘the forest thru the trees’ long term goals of raising a healthy child with an open mindset.

As a way of growing those positive connections, try to set up likely successful interactions between husband and child. What’s a common link? A common interest? Sports? Cooking? Hiking? Get them doing things together that they both enjoy to build those bonds and create a new normal to begin repairing that 5:2 ratio.

It is clear from your post that you are seeking understanding and support and I am glad that people have offered it. I will go in a slightly different direction and provide some of what I have observed from a dad's perspective. First, ADHD is a disability, it is not an excuse. It is difficult for a blind child to learn to read, so they need to work harder than others and learn a different way. They just can't NOT learn to read. Similarly, it is difficult for my son with ADHD not to (for example) interrupt adult guests. But, it is not ok for him to interrupt them and ADHD is no excuse for bad behavior. The parent's role, in my opinion, is to do everything within your power to put the child in a position to be his best self. This means medication, perhaps counseling, accommodations at school and life style modification at home. For example, I know that at a certain point in the evening, my son "hits the wall." We all have a different word for it, but all ADHD parents know what I mean. It would be unfair for me to have house guests after that point and expect him to be at his best. We have learned to either leave places or shoo guests out of our home before that. However, when we have done what we can to equip him to be his best self, the obligation is then his follow the rules, even though doing so is much harder for him than for children without his disability. To return to my example, although it is extremely difficult for my son, as compared to children without his disability, not to interrupt, he is expected to not interrupt adults. I have seen many couples where they refuse to do things to help the child be at his best (like medicate) and instead the mom views her role as "apologist," constantly excusing and justifying the behavior instead of making any effort to control or stop it. I can think of 2 examples of this among friends which resulted not only in the children being intolerable to nearly everyone including the dad, but when the dad would correct the behavior, the mom would intervene ( in the child's behalf., I am sure she thought). I have seen it deteriorate into fights between the couple and in both cases, eventually resulted in the dads checking out and golfing or some other activity all weekend to avoid time with family. That left no one better off. I always felt like if the mom felt like the child's behavior was just fine, then the dad constantly asking her to correct it would probably not be well received. On the other hand, when the father felt the behavior was unacceptable and sought to correct it, the mom had NO hesitation with intervening. In our house, there are definite differences in which behaviors each of us tolerates. I try not to intervene when my wife corrects a behavior she feels is inappropriate (even when I do not agree) and I want the same from her. For both of us, it is usually the "interference " from the other parent which is the anger trigger, not the child's behavior. This is what I have observed in other families as well. Just some thoughts. Be well. I am glad you found support and understanding here. That's what everyone needs.

bdhb96 in reply to ADHD_DAD

Hi ADHD_DAD, The challenges you described are very worthy of their own discussion post. Do you think you could open one up? It seems like this is a subject that affects so many and it’d be helpful to hear from so many rather than brief in this thread.

Pebbles222 in reply to ADHD_DAD

Wow so wonderful so hear this perspective and I truely appreciate it. You are spot on, my husband correcting his behaviour and me intervening is the pattern. I can see your point, and my husband has said the same, that I try and override him at times. I just want my husband to be better educated about the issues our son has and understand why he might do something, and approach it from a different angle, yes ADHD is not an excuse for bad behaviour though it does warrant different strategies. Thanks again. All the best for your family 😀

Klmamma in reply to Pebbles222

Your son notices this intervening and he will use it to play you against each other. I saw it in my son at just 3 years of age. They're master manipulators, you MUST be a United front.

If you don't agree with something your husband did or said, you need to address it privately. I think mom's tend to be a little overly sensitive when it comes to Dad's and their son's too. I'm guilty of it myself. Once I quit butting in, my son's behavior drastically improved as did my marriage.

Klmamma in reply to ADHD_DAD

This is SPOT ON. When my kid is 18 and does something stupid, ADHD is not an excuse. I make sure my son knows this, even at age 6. As you get older, you can't always apologize and take things back. There are consequences for your actions and that's why we practice our skills, take our meds, and know our own limitations.

I think this has been effective and I don't think our sometimes brutal honesty has affected him negatively. He needs to be prepared to deal with life, even if he struggles. He needs to know his own limitations, strengths, and how to deal with both. His Dad and I both flip out sometimes over things the other finds stupid. We just quietly mention it to each other later. I tend to get more easily annoyed at potty talk etc and my husband will let me know I'm being too picky. That's part of marriage too. CONSTRUCTIVE criticism and help not nagging and belittling, etc. But I like that he can come to me and say, "I think you could have handled that differently" we are a team!

You may open another topic post if you wish. I don't really have anything more to add. My point, I think, is really twofold. First, in my experience, neither spouse holds the patent on perfect parenting. We are all just doing the best we can to navigate this challenging journey. I sometimes disagree with the actions of my wife, but that doesn't mean she is wrong (or right) and she certainly doesn't need my criticism. Second, while I (try to) respond infrequently, I read nearly every post. I have not seen one example of this journey being less challenging for a single parent. In fact, the opposite seems true. Be well all. Stay safe and healthy!

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