Seriously at my wit's end.

I am dreading our 19th wedding anniversary this summer...just like I dread Valentine's Day, his birthday, and Christmas around him.  I just want it ALL to go away...as it relates to him.  I have been married to a man who points fingers at everyone else.  It's ALWAYS someone else's fault.  Honestly, I can't make up my mind if it's ADHD, Narcisstic Personality Disorder, Depression…or a combination of all three.  What I DO know is our relationship (if you can call it that) is toxic.  We have three boys (ages 9, 12, and 13), all of whom want their Dad to “go away”.  My oldest son feels this very strongly.  He hates him…and with good reason.  The man is heartless around him.

My husband has very strong mood swings.  He may be fine one minute and then he “switches”.   You honestly have no idea what’s going to come in the door in the evenings.  You could get a fun guy that just casually walks in or (more often) you can get, “What the hell is this mess for?  Why are these shoes here?  Who’s paper is that?  Why aren’t the trash cans brought in?”   In his mind, the place must always be spic and span (I work full time also, the kids are all in activities—we’re busy like everyone else).  The mood in the room darkens when he enters.  Everyone is always ready for an insult or directive.  Yet, if HE leaves something out, well by golly it’s your fault for not walking around it…and the fact that it’s even being brought up opens the floor for him to slam you with everything YOU do wrong.  If the kids point it out, they’re reminded of their place in the hierarchy of the family…and then they’re assigned a job of cleaning the bathroom or their room.  We’ve gotten to the point where we all avoid him if we can.  And really, he doesn’t make it that hard at times.  When he gets home, after spouting off at everyone, he’ll go upstairs and lay down or watch tv or whatever.  As soon as I hit the door I have to fix dinner, I’m arranging drop-offs/pick-ups for activities, going over to-do lists of who needs to do what before they go, etc.  

To summarize where I’m at, we’ve tried counseling.  It didn’t take long for the counselor to see that when I say I’ve tried everything, I wasn’t kidding.  I’ve tried guiding, backing off, being there, being in the background, read books on relationships, researching things online, given him information…I’ve seriously tried it all.  The counselor suggested my husband see him 1:1 for awhile—he obviously saw some red flags.  That lasted two sessions and my husband walked out.  No argument EVER gets resolved.  Everything is my doing.  If our kids are in trouble, it’s because I’m not hard enough of them.  If they’re failing in school, it’s because I don’t work with them enough.  Now…let me also add that two out of three of my kids have ADHD and one of those two also has depression.  IIIIIIII am the one that sought help for them and manage their meds.  Their drs have hardly met my husband.  Their psych has never met him.  The school wouldn’t recognize him if he walked in.  That is how disconnected he is.  Now…if I’m torn between activities and tell him he HAS to take so-and-so to this one, he will.  But that falls under the heading of parent-child relationship between he and I and often ends with him either rolling his eyes…or the kids will be late to the activity he takes them to. 

Now, as cut and dry as this sounds…he also has a very soft side.  He’ll cry at commercials (WTH??).  He gets teary at the kids’ plays and stuff.  When I TRIED kicking him out 2 years ago he refused saying that one, we can’t work on anything if we’re separated.  And two, he doesn’t want to be that Dad that isn’t involved.  What?  So damn conflicting!  I no longer feel “love”.  I don’t want to be touched by him.  I don’t want to be alone with him.  When I know he’s trying to coordinate an evening or something, I’ll purposely sabotage it, because I want nothing to do with it.  It sounds harsh, but there have been so many times where I think, “Ok, this time he gets it.  He’s really on the upswing.”  Then BAM!  One of the kids will say how much he’s badmouthing me or how many names he’s calling them behind my back ("He says we're f-----g morons").  Or that he slammed one of them up against the car to “make a point”.  Or he stops wearing his wedding ring.  Again.  He’s cheated on me once (that I know of) and tried to just say it was an online “friendship”.  She meant nothing.  How do you get across to someone that THEY are the ones that have to change before our family dynamic can ever be somewhat normal???  Oh, when he gets scared that I’m finally done, he’ll turn on the charm and be the model Dad and husband.  It lasted as long as 3 months before…but then slowly but surely, my moody husband returned.  How does one stand by their man when their man refuses help and refuses to even think they have a problem?  I’m a child of divorce and cannot stand the very thought of my kids having to go back and forth…but the environment they’re in can’t be healthy either.  I have two stepfamilies.  I don’t want my kids to know what that’s like.  But I’m miserable.  I'm so conflicted with the amount of "relationship" stories that are out there and how long I should stick around.  Or am I supposed to be in this for a reason? 

Dear Sunshine, I am new to

Dear Sunshine,

I am new to learning about AHDH and its effects, but it sounds like some of the issues with your relationship are distinct from that. My husband has ADHD, anger management issues that stem from the related stress and 'listening' issues, but he is a loving, gentle involved parent (just forgets all the tasks he doesn't like). It seems to me that if the relationship is toxic not only for you, but also for your sons, it might be better to remove the source of conflict. Are you seeing a therapist? It seems to me that it might make sense for you to see your own therapist, to explore options and understand the dynamics and decide whether you thinkthe relationship is worth saving, whether you think it is possible to save, or what the repercussions (positive and negative) might be of ending the relationship. For me, the litmus test is my kids: if I feel that they are better off with us together (even if we bicker and things are sometimes chaotic) then staying and working makes sense. If they are better off without that conflict, and solving the conflict doesn't seem likely, then leaving makes sense.

Unmanaged ADHD is toxic

I'm very sorry for your situation.  It sounds untenable.  I agree that it would be good for you to have your own counselor just so that you have someone that you can really vent to and has your side only. 

I too am from a split family and I must say that I believe in divorce where it's warranted.  My mom stayed in an emotionally abusive relationship a decade too long and I am still experiencing the effects of the emotional abuse.  Children learn how to have relationships from their parents, is yours the one you want to be their example?  I no zero people who have regretted getting divorced, but several who regret staying married.

Your husband sounds a lot like my DH has been at times.  Those were the times when he was also depressed, way too stressed out, and not making any attempt outside of medication to manage the ADHD.  I had to make it clear that I wasn't going to live like that forever and that he had to make visible attempts to manage it in order for me to maintain any hope.  It's been hit and miss since, but he's really improved on the hyper-critical, short fuse, always negative aspects.  This is in conjunction with nearly 2 years of therapy, changes in meds, sleeping aids, and my changing my approach where appropriate. 

Your husband has to be willing to actively manage his ADHD, recognize his role in your relationship issues, and be willing to change behavior.  You have to be willing to be open to his changes, and allow for failures as he finds the things that work for him.  But first he has to commit to making changes.  There are one day ADHD marriage workshops in some areas you can look into, or there are PBS specials on the topic that might be earsier for him to commit to just so he can get a better sense of the scope of the problems related to ADHD.  My husband didn't really get it until I pointed out that his horrible family related conflicts that he claimed were the cause of all his problems were all because of his, his four siblings, and his mother's ADHD.  And that he did the same things to me.  This had to be relayed many times of course.

Best wishes.  Remember to do what is best for you and your family.  Take must take care of yourself first before you can be prepared to fully care for others.

hang in there

sunshine, I can see why you are at your wit's end. 

I am reacting to a few things you wrote. The mood darkening when he enters, and fearing something bad will happen, and your son hating him, and your children wanting him to go away, and you feeling like you have to keep the house clean or ... what? And he's cheated on you, and slammed your child into a car, and swears and says bad things about you behind your back? I hope this doesn't sound harsh, but I needed someone to say it to me: your spouse is abusive, and your family is afraid of him, and he very well may have some mood disorder or personality disorder and/or ADHD. If this is the situation, and he won't acknowledge it or enter treatment immediately? I understand not wanting to expose your children to divorce or separation, really I do (just left my STBX, and I was in a pretty similar situation to yours, and it was hard to decide to do)--but do you think it is better for them to grow up and learn to be men and learn about relationships in this environment? I have sons, too, and yours are at a crucial age, and perhaps continuing on this way is not better than having a step family. You sound like you have shut down with him, which makes total sense--otherwise, the hurt and harm you will experience will just be too great. 

Your DH has a soft side and can be sentimental or feel a positive emotion? Great, but the things you are describing are not connected to his behavior or decisions. My abusive STBX would go on and on about how much he felt, but in the end it doesn't matter if it is just a feeling---when mine called me names or criticized me in front of our children, it didn't matter for beans that he "felt" such and such a thing the next day. Abusive men can be very manipulative and charming. It gives them control. 

I am sorry if I am projecting my own experience onto yours or overstepping, but here it is: you don't have to put up with this. You don't deserve to be treated like this. It. is. not. okay. Some have ADHD and can treat it and the partner can work and the marriage can thrive. Some have serious personality disorders and mental illness and I am not a doctor but your post is pretty grim. I think that maybe you should take it to a doctor or counselor and read it to them.  

I know--marriage and binding your lives together is a huge commitment, and you are a family, and how long should you stick this out? You sound like a thoughtful, hardworking, loyal, bright, strong woman who is truly concerned about her children. You tried to get him to leave once, and of course he said he can't work on things separated--he is controlling you and this is one thing he could say to manipulate the situation and you. I think you owe it to your kids to take care of their needs first. I'll say it. I think you should get your kids out of there--they are asking you to, right? 

And then, when they are safe and you have some peace, think about your relationship with him and whether or not he is going to seek treatment. And be careful--most men who behave this way get the most dangerous and unstable when they realize you are thinking of leaving. Because you are the strong one who has been weathering this storm, and unfortunately, he is actually the frightened and sick one underneath the yelling and control. And don't give a crap about what anyone else thinks! They aren't waking up in your shoes every day. They don't live your life. I left and I haven't regretted it for one second. My children have their mother back. 

Best to you. Tell your counselor what you wrote here. Take care of yourself and your children. You will be in my thoughts. 

Thank you!

I just wanted to thank you all for your insights.  And trust me, nothing has been said that hasn't crossed my mind.  I do think counseling is the best place for me to start.  It's just so frustrating to WANT to try to work on your marriage and the other person playing mind games to make you think they are too.  And they may even point out "examples".  But in the end, that's all it is--mind games to keep things at a status quo.  I just don't think marriage was ever supposed to be THIS lonely.