How do I help my in-laws understand my husbands ADD?

HI Everyone. This site has been a marraige saver for my husband and I. We been together 12 years, married almost 7. Last month we seperated for 2 weeks, niether of us could deal with the other any longer. A bit of hitstory... After years of not feeling loved etc (typical non-add spouse feelings) I had an affair. I deeply regret it, especially once my husband was diagnoaed with ADD. To find out he really wasn't the jerk I thought I had married and that i had done that to him...the guilt is amazing.  Anyway, during our two week seperation he went to his parents for support. They know about the affair, but refuse to believe that ADD is a real thing. While a contributing factor in my affair, it was not the cause, I know that I was. He wants them to understand what has been occuring in our marrige, perhaps to shed light on my reasons for stepping out. They just wont hear him. His father (who has to also be ADD) says it's just the doctor wanting him to come back every week to get paid etc. Very old school mental health thinking, it's all a crock. But it's ruining my husbands relationship with them. And they dont see this. He's sent them this website to read through, and says do not contact me until you've read this and done some reasearch on add. They refuse. They say I"m so controlling (his words while we were seperated when he hated me, he understands that his feeling that I'm controllling is part of his add) that I've brainwashed him into staying with me. He's caving, and making a terrible mistake they say. But they forget, that they would have lost their son 12 years ago if not for me. Not only is he their only ADD kid, but he's also the middle child, so he always felt and feels as if he's tossed aside for the older golden boy and younger baby sister. His father even agreed with this once that he was. My husband has had it with the additudes, not only towards him, but towards his add. He's not going to communicate with them until they research, but he knows that they wont, they're too proud. He's said we have to move on with our life without them, he loves me and our little family (2 dogs that are our kids) and that's all he needs, b/c that is all he's ever really felt that he's had.

 Should I try to get involved? It breaks my heart that in his hour of need they do this to him. He went to them for support and all their doing is yelling at him. Shouldn't it matter to them what he wants? Shouldn't it matter to them that they loved me like a daughter and on numourous occasions thanked me for bringing their son back to them? Yes I made a terrible mistake, if my husband can forgive me why can't they? especially knowing if they don't they'll loose there son. Which is his decision, not mine. Why do they refuse his add?


Thank you ! Jess

Maybe they think it is their fault?

Obviously I don't know anything about your particular in-laws, but i know when dealing with many health issues, especially ones that can be inherited, many parents just can't accept that they could have given their child something so awful.  Also, when you're dealing with an adult diagnosis, I would imagine the guilt of finding out you missed something so big could be fairly overwhelming.  I don't understand denial over it as I'm not at all a head-in-the-sand type, but I do know parents that have dealt with other serious issues in the way you're describing.

I also am not sure which type of ADD your husband has, but I know at first I was stunned when my husband suspected ADD based on online research he was doing.  I had no idea of all the types of ADD that exist or all the symptoms he was exhibitting.  My cousin is textbook ADHD and has bounced off the walls since childhood while my husband was very low energy (also had some allergy issues which we learned pre-ADD, but some of it was ADD overwhelm).  He also hadn't lived with his parents for about 10 years, so they didn't see how paralyzed he could get once he got overwhelmed or the difficult time he had with committments.  He has held down a job his entire adult life, highly trained & intelligent, fantastic with computers, always had very interactive hobbies etc; so from the outside in (and he isn't particularly close to them for the same reasons of feeling given less attention than his problem-riddled sister) they had no idea that he struggled with anything.

When I was first so angry with his continued repetition of behaviours I told him were hurting my feelings, I didn't see his behaviour as symptoms of anything at all.  It seemed like at times he was acting like a jerk, and that is what I communicated to him.  I'm sure growing up, when his symptoms manifested themselves, his parents had a similar reaction.  My husband flunked out of college the first time because he was on his own and managing his time for the first time alone, and he couldnt see why he had to attend some of the classes when he showed up to ace the tests.  His father's reaction?  He told him he would never spend another dime on his education & that he could get himself through college next time if he wanted to go.  My husband did....though he got bored about 3 credits shy of graduation and finished in the Air Force (where he had a job that kept him very mentally engaged).  

His father, of course, felt very guilty when the diagnosis came in.  He can see now that he should have said in hindside "You've always been fabulous at school & have never flunked anything.  We need to find out what is going on."  What can we do to help and support you?"   I feel sorry for him and my mother-in-law because they had no idea what they thought was laziness etc was actually a huge problem that a very low dose of medication helped almost immediately.  Does it make me angry with them, that they spent so much time, attn, and energy on their squeaky wheel, that they sort of let his issues fly under the radar?  Absolutely it does because I ended up with the 30 year old man getting diagnosed for the first time once many of his behaviours were ingrained, but also I know that for 3 years of marriage I didn't suspect ADD either, though I did think he should be *trying harder*.

My in-laws felt a little denial because they had the same mental picture of ADD as I did & he has NO hyperactivity, but we'd done our research before talking to them and he could walk them through symptom manifestation throughout his childhood.  And it was a good experience for my husband because they apologized for not realizing, and even said "This explains so many contradictory things from your childhood"  My mil asked for us to provide her with a book about it (which I thought was laziness on her part as she could get her own book, but turns out she isn't the jerk we thought either and is pretty textbook ADD too)  She read at least part of the book and talked to us about it that weekend we brought it to her & she was expressing horror that she's seeing ADD in herself now and in her daughter.  So the daughter inherited both ADD and bi-polar from my MIL, which SIL only accepts she has anxiety and depression.  And since my husband is taking care of his ADD in a healthy manner, he still is the one that is pushed aside while she worries about his sister!! 

I think for better or worse a lot of families have their dynamic firmly in place by the time we as daughter-in-laws come in.  I'm pretty sure neither of our families would come fully back from an affair on the part of either of us.  That can unfortunately be human nature, especially since your husband likely filled their ears with plenty of rotten opinions while he was there and hurting.  That relationship may be changed forever for you and I am sorry if that is the case.  The good thing is that the more important relationship with your husband has repairs well underway!

I think all you can do is encourage communication on his part, but as you mentioned in your post it really is his decision, and it sounds like he feels at this moment that he has just been hurt too much by them.  Be ready to support him if and when that changes would be my only suggestion.  I would tell you to keep up your own relationship with them so that they don't lose track entirely of his life, but in the situation as it stands, they probably wouldn't be open to it and your husband might feel it is a betrayal.

Best wishes to you

My in-laws won't acknowledge my husband's change, either...

After 5 1/2 years of marriage with all the classic symptoms of ADHD, my husband was finally diagnosed and treated with both medication and therapy, and now almost 2 years later he is literally not the same person. I have gone from being in a marriage where I was the unpaid babysitter for the equivalent of an emotionally volatile, immature teenage boy to being in a marriage with another adult who has become fully responsible for himself and who is no longer addictive, angry, emotionally unstable, undependable, etc. I am so grateful for the changes I can't even begin to express it! Since getting his ADHD under control, my husband's wonderful personality that was there all along (but hidden by the ADHD) has really shown up in wonderful ways.

The problem is that his parents simply won't believe either him or I when we tell them who he was (using specific examples) and who he has now become since undergoing treatment. When we tell them of the problems we had prior in our marriage (specifically related to his ADHD symptoms), they simply refuse to believe it and tell us something like "nobody's perfect" and that they're sorry our marriage was characterized by unrest, or some other such thing that implies that two are always at fault. Turns out they're apparently angry that I haven't taken personal responsibility for any troubles we had (I didn't tell them of hardly any of our marital challenges, all of which were directly ADHD-related, because my husband's ADHD prevented him from even the vaguest awareness that his behavior created problems, so I didn't tell his parents because what good would it do?). They apparently refuse to believe their son could have had any issues like this, and I suspect that they also don't believe it because my coping skills were very high and I didn't let on to them at the time almost any of what I was dealing with. As they apparently believe that all marital trouble always takes two (has anyone told a battered woman that recently? Just curious), they won't acknowledge what my husband has gone through, and he's very hurt about it.

My husband and I are concerned about his younger siblings in particular, as we both see major issues in how they handle/don't handle anger/emotion/etc. Turns out there's an extensive history of mental illness in the family (for generations) that's been kept hidden all these years, and we believe that his younger siblings are affected by some form of this (just as my husband was, as ADHD is now classified as a form of mental illness when it occurs in adults). However, when we brought our concerns about the younger siblings to the parents' attention, they told me (the in-law) that I am never to use the term "mental illness" in their presence, they openly questioned the credentials of the psychiatrist who diagnosed and effectively treated my husband, and they asked me point-blank if I'd considered getting myself tested for mental problems instead. On the other hand, they let my husband use whatever language he wished and say whatever he liked about his experiences during that conversation, affirming him whenever possible and attacking/combating virtually anything I said throughout the entire conversation.

They are not supportive of my husband's new life, and I don't understand why. It seems to me that the easiest way out of the situation for them would be to actually believe that their child did have a chemical problem that they were not in control of. That would mean that as a parent you could have done everything you possibly could, and you could have even done everything "right," and your child would still have the issues that they have...that it's not their fault, it's literally a problem of missing chemicals in the brain.

I guess it's easier for them to simply assume that their daughter-in-law is pointing fingers? I really don't get it...but from my observation the family has simply accepted out-of-control emotions and behavior as normal in adults, and so when my husband and I have referred to his former behavior as "not normal," and made it clear that meds and therapy helped my husband to not be at the mercy of his volatile emotions anymore, it makes them very defensive. (I was told that I can't even begin to imagine how richly their daughter can "feel" emotions, for instance. I'm assuming I'm being told this because she can't control her emotions even though she's now in her mid-20s, and perhaps to her parents there is a direct correlation between how much emotion one has and one's ability/inability to control it?)

Anyway, I feel badly for my husband, because it surely sucks to do all that work to become a person who is in control of their behavior instead of at the mercy of every random emotion that comes along, only to have your parents deny that you ever were the person you used to be.

Any thoughts? Suggestions?

A few thoughts:

A few thoughts:

I am inclined to suggest that you let your husband lead the way when it comes to his parents.  I am not sure when your husband received his diagnosis.  My son was diagnosed almost a year ago and my husband formally about 6 months ago.  With lots of reading and observation my understanding of ADHD and its implications is continually evolving.  You may think you have the full picture at the moment but it sounds like you are in the thick of things, so you may find with time that your perceptions change - not necessarily the diagnosis but it's implications in your husband's case.  In other words you may not be the best bearer of the "truth".  Moreover, it's his parents and his relationship with them so he should be the one to manage that situation, with your help if he clearly asks for it.


Your husband has always had ADHD and presumably various related characteristics.  The diagnosis doesn't change that.   If his parents react negatively to the diagnosis that probably just underscores pre-existing relationship problems.  I doubt the ADHD diagnosis or the parents failure to accept the same is the cause of those problems.


Having said all that, his siblings if supportive, may be an indirect and longer route to gradual acceptance by the parents.  You might wish to suggest this to your husband.


In my situation, my husband has made no disclosure to his parents.  If told, I imagine his parents would be critical not only of him but me as well and would never be accepting or supportive.   My husband has less interest in the relationship with his parents now, I suspect because the non-disclosure underscores the point that he cannot share honestly with them.  Once every 2 weeks or so he communicates with his parents that everything is fantastic on our end, they do the same and that's that.  It's sad but not specifically dependent on whether they would or would not be able to accept an ADHD diagnosis.


It does however get a little bit more complicated.  My husband has 3 siblings - none of them have been told of the diagnosis either.  They all live in a different community so keeping a lid on things has been easy.   One of the siblings has a child who I thought about constantly when first becoming educated about ADHD.  I have commented to my husband that I would not be surprised if our neice has ADHD and he has made his own observations and agrees.  We can't say for sure.  We do not see her often enough and well, we're just not qualified to make that kind of call. 


What are the ethics in this case?  The brand of ADHD running through our family combines with learning disability in written expression and giftedness - it has extreme detriments and extreme benefits.  On the benefit side my husband ended up an extraordinary specialized medical doctor.  On the detriment side, by grade 5 my son's life (and my husband's to the extent I have been able to uncover) was a total train wreck.  My son's school marks tanked, he was suspended from school 7 times; the principal said he didn't look like the 35 other ADHD kids in the school and by the end of the year we were told he was not welcome back.   ADHD education, medication, a change of schools, a non-split class, a supportive teacher and school administration has in less than 1 year made my son one of the top students academically with 0 behaviour problems.  In fact he is one of the most popular kids in his class and is loved by his teacher.   My husband unfortunately was not good with the disclosure - after living through it, he put his memories in a place never to be unlocked.  Now he has given me enough disclosure that I know it was fairly similar for him and I don't pressure him for more.


So do we sit by and not say anything? When my son was having troubles, I was about as close to losing it myself as I have ever been.  I saw my son slipping away and felt powerless to do anything about it, under the judgmental critical eyes of the teacher and school administration.  I believe disclosure would have helped me and in turn my son tremendously.  Maybe the train wreck of a grade 5 year could have been avoided.  I must say however that the silver lining is that my son is fully cognizant of the role of medication and I don't imagine that he will not want to take it as many other adolescents choose.


So far I am hanging back and not saying anything.  My neice if just finishing grade 2.  If they visit later in the summer as they are talking about, I will not hide my son's medication sitting on the kitchen counter or remove the row of ADHD books on the shelf and disclosure might happen effortlessly.  If they don't visit, I will be back to worrying about what to do.


Any thoughts are welcome.









Thank you for your kind words

Thank you for your kind words of not only encouregment, but also your suggestions. I do know that there were many problems between my husband and his family before i ever came alone. I also know that this is his desicion and I cannot interfere in their family dynamic, as I know I am no longer included in that. I just hate to see him hurting. And I hate that my actions lead him and his family to this place. He asures me that they would have gotten to this point at some time. That I was the catalyst, not the reason.

What was said about them perhaps feeling guilty rings a bit of truth. Whenever he would talk about his therapy or any diagnoses that he'd get (we've been through bipolar, add, deperession, anxiety) they would immediatly become defensive and say it wasn't their fault.  He's never blamed them. Though now in his anger towards them he does blame them for being "to embarassed to have a broken kid to get him help. What would the neighbors think?" but I think that is just his anger and hurt towards them talking. His older brother tried to reach out, but only to find out where he stood with my husband, not offering support, just wanting to know if he too was cut off. My husband explained to him what the issue was with his parents, very nicely and consisly, and that his problems with their parents shouldn't and doesn't affect his relationship with his brother. Though they are brothers, they aren't freinds. I tried to see if my husband would open up to his brother, but again, my husband is the middle child and there are too many hurt feelings from the past that linger in their relationships as well. I guess i just have to sit back and hope for the best. I know they will not accept me back, not now anyway. Hopefully eventually they will. They were my family too.