Parenting an ADHD child has put such a strain on my marriage :(

I'm posting here in the hope that there are others out there with a similar experience.

I've been married for 14 years, and am a parent of a 10 year old girl who got diagnosed with ADHD when she was about 5. Ever since, the relationship with my wife has gone gradually down hill, and now I'm at the point that I'm going to move out for a while. This has not been an easy decision, but I'm really at my wits end, and don't see any other alternatives.

I've grown more and more resentful over the years, as it seems that everything in my family always revolves around my daughter. My wife and I have really lost sight of each other and our own needs, which is an insight I've gained after several months of marriage counseling. On top of this, I was really depressed when going into counseling, so I was prescribed anti-depressants. This has really helped me to become less agitated, but still, the situation at home has not stopped from sliding downwards.

It's still hard for me to be patient with my daughter, and I get jealous when I see kids her own age being much more independent than her. And I know it's not her fault.  I continue to be resentful towards my wife, because I feel like she's always put my daughter and her special needs before me. Then came the realization that I've put my very own ambitions and aspirations in life on the back burner in the past couple of years, and it is killing me inside. Perhaps I'm in midlife crisis as a result.

So now I'm moving out for a while, very much with mixed feelings. There is part relief, and there is part guilt. I want my marriage to get back to the way it was, but I'm not able to. I'm not even sure if this is the right decision, and I'm scared my wife will think I'm abandoning her. But I feel like I need space and time to be on my own for a while to sort things out.

I'd greatly appreciate any feedback from parents who've been in the same boat.

I have a special needs child


I have a child with ADHD, ODD, RAD, mood disorders...I understand the constant stress, resentment and a life revolving around a super needy child. I know the feeling of putting your life "on hold" because of the needs of a child. I know how the stress of raising a child can weaken a marriage.

Honestly, with the information you gave me, I don't think it's fair that you move out for a while.

Just for clarification, do you or your wife have ADHD? Also, is there something more going on with daughter? ADHD is hard, but is it as all-consuming as you describe? (Is your wife over-protective?)

If I know more about your situation, maybe I can offer some more feedback.


Sounds similar


Thanks for replying, much appreciated. Sounds like you've had a similar experience.

The truth is, for years I kind of refused to acknowledge my daughter's ADHD, almost as if it didn't existed. Right now I've accepted it to be a fact, and that she simply can't help it to be an overactive, restless child who has a hard time focusing. She also has many wonderful traits, such as being very creative and social. But she can also be very confrontational, especially with me and when her meds are not fully active.

Even though my wife and I mostly split parental duties, it was my wife who really got onto the ADHD band wagon. She's spent a lot of her energy and time towards my daughter and her special needs, I think to the point where we kind of lost sight of ourselves and each other. It's like our whole existence is wrapped around our little girl. Which is hard for me to swallow, because I grew up in a family with 4 kids.

Anyway, we've been doing marriage counseling for a while now, and while it's been helpful, it seems to have made just worse so far. For the moment I'm going to move out for a week just to get some space. I love my wife and daughter dearly, but am incapable with dealing with her. I don't have the patience.

Also I think I might have had ADHD myself as a child, but not that extreme. Something might run in the family, so who knows....


Counseling has been a lifesaver for me

"It's like our whole existence is wrapped around our little girl." I totally, totally, totally get this.

Here's a little bit of my situation:

For me, when life (my son's needs) feel out of control, my response is to "tighten up" and become more controlling. I try to be extremely organized, hyper-scheduled and pro-active in order to avoid outbursts and meltdowns (and violence). I try to have contingency plans for every possible outcome. (If son does A, I'll do B. If son does C, I'll do D, etc) A lot of my mental energy goes into the planning of each day. Frankly, if my husband isn't going along with my game plan, I get very upset because I am so worried about outbursts.  Also, I know that I take my anger and stress out on my husband because it's not appropriate to dump on my kid.

Another factor adding to stress is that mothering is hard in our current culture. There is a lot of guilt for us moms when we aren't living up to society's standards. For example, when my kid doesn't do his homework, I feel guilty. For about 3 years, my son was obese because he could not control his impulse to overeat.  I tried everything to help him slim down, but still felt like everyone blamed me for my son's weight problem.  (He finally lost weight when he got on meds.)

After years of trying, we finally have a counselor who has connected with our son. He and I go together (sometimes dad). The counseling isn't so feelings/emotion centered. It's more about learning life skills and social skills. My counselor spends a lot of time on parenting skills for me. She has a way of  re-framing situations and coming up with alternative plans. ("Let him flunk if he doesn't do his homework."  WHAAATTT?) I have to parent this kid completely differently than my other 3 kids. It is counter-intuitive to me. I have a lot of guilt and angst about it, but the counselor helps me let some of that go. When I release some of that stress, it is healthier for our marriage.

Maybe you two can find a family counselor/coach that will help you with alternative parenting strategies. Maybe a counselor can help your wife release some of the pressure that I assume she's feeling.

Here's a few things that have helped. 1) My husband always, always backs me up in my parenting decisions even if he doesn't completely agree with me. We disagree in private later. I can tell you, the worst thing in the world is when my partner undermines me.  2) Spending time alone. We recently went away for a weekend. Guess what? We still like each other. :)  3) A twisted sense of humor.

One more thing, you mentioned you might have had ADHD as a child. ADHD is not something you grow out of, even though most adults find coping skills. ADHD could be a reason why you don't have the patience for your daughter.  

I hear you


I hear you, and in fact my wife is kind of the same, in that she's always trying to be super-planned and all. I think you're definitely right that society puts a lot of, sometimes unspoken and/or under-appreciated, expectations on the mother in general. Probably more so than on the father. Maybe women also take parenting more personal, but my wife sometimes thinks she a failure at being a mom, even though she makes such a big effort to do the right thing.

It sounds very tiring when you describe how you have to anticipate every scenario while dealing with your son. That must be exhausting.

My daughter doesn't want to follow any rules, and she talks back all the time. She's a very creative yet stubborn girl, always thinking she knows better. Now that's she's starting puberty, I'm afraid things won't get any easier :)

And thanks for the suggestions, I'm definitely going to look into some kind of counseling for her to gain more life/social skills.


Oh yeah, forgot about that constant failing feeling!

Is there any chance your daughter might be ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder)? It's the tendency to be argumentative and disobedient with authority figures. We call my son "opposite boy" because he just can't not disagree. We say up, he says down. If the waiter warns him not to touch the hot plate...he has to touch the hot plate.

ODD might be a possibility actually


Thanks for your reply. Yes, it seems my daughter definitely has some touch of ODD (refuses to cooperate, argues often, blames others for her mistakes, easily annoyed). I think this might be something that runs in our family actually. I've seen it in myself, my sister and my grandpa too actually. Maybe genetics play a role. But all people say of my 10 year old is, "she is so assertive and articulate, and one day it'll come in handy for her." But for right now it's a bit of a pain :) We had to hold our daughter back in fourth grade, because she was struggling to keep up with math. But even like it seemed like the right thing to do, it is tough on her self-esteem. It's like you can't win :(


i truly understand your situation

I have very similar situation, both of my teenage children were diagnosed with ADHD, on top of that,  my 17 years old daughter has ODD condition too.   My husband( biological father) left us few months ago, and live his own life now, because he could not put up with my daughter and my parenting skill( I try to work with her, many times, I let her do whatever she likes to do, just keep her calm).  I have to tell you this from my own mistakes, first of all, you and your wife ALWAYS have to remind yourself, " this is her mental health condition, nobody's fault'  many times, we were easily criticized how poorly we handle with children, but trust me, general standard parenting textbook does not apply to children with ODD.  Many therapists told me what to do regarding raising our kids, I always want to scream to them and tell them, "it is not that easy, if normal parenting strategy works for our children, we already have seen progress and change in our kids!!".  We really feel like nobody understands what we go through with kids.  Then, we as parents start to blame each other( it seems like you and your wife dont do blame game", so thats good), but once again, it is not your wife's fault, nor your fault, nor your daughter's fault.  If you need your own peaceful time, yes please take your own time to enjoy doing something for you, and so as your wife.  But if you move out, it will be harder for you to get back with them.   What I really regret about my children's treatment, I did not seek for psychiatrist help and search for the best treatment for them..  I know some people are against medication, but I think your daughter will be much better with the right medication( many of children change their behavior a lot with med).   What your wife want to hear from you is your kind supportive words, and what you need to hear from your wife is that how much she understands your position and stress.  

"I want my marriage to get

"I want my marriage to get back to the way it was, but I'm not able to. I'm not even sure if this is the right decision, and I'm scared my wife will think I'm abandoning her."

My husband, who has ADHD and other disorders, began withdrawing when our children were in middle school.  I still don't know why.  Yes, it felt like abandonment.  I think that you must do what you feel is necessary but realize that you are taking the risk that this will lead to further marital shutdown.