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Do You Find that Kids Put a Strain on Your Marriage?

A new study just came out (see blog) saying parents of children with ADHD are twice as likely to divorce by the time the child is eight years old, than other parent couples. Do you have a child with ADHD? Is it affecting your marriage?

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I am not currently married, but I have a live-in partner that I have been with for 3 years. We have 3 children between us. He has a 19 year old son and a 13 year old daughter; I have a 9 year old son. My son and his son are not problems; in fact, they behave like Big Brother/Little Brother; the problem is his daughter.

My partner's daughter was diagnosed ADD/ADHD when she was around 5. She also has learning disabilities and is beginning to show signs of rapid-cycling bipolar (I have a few in my family, so I know what that looks like). To make things even more interesting, her mother has substance abuse and psychological problems; those played a large role in the reason why she and my partner are divorced and why he has custody of both children. My partner allows his daughter careful access to her mother, limiting the visits and making sure that the mother is both sober and behaving responsibly, to minimize any negative effects onto their daughter. Being 13 and having her own problems, she desperately wants "a mother" but doesn't yet understand or see that the one she has is not the healthiest role model for her. There have been periods of time on and off where her mother was either on a binge or not healthy to be around; during those times, I did for her what needed to be done (for example, explaining the facts of life to her -- because no one else did). Her brother is a "normal" young man who fully understands who is mother is and has chosen not to have any contact with her.

Of late, my partner and I have been fighting over the ADD/ADHD-created issues. If I sit down and think about it, our relationship is good, and unfortunately, when his daughter is not around, we get along even better. For one, his daughter is now rebelling over taking her medication; she claims she doesn't need it and refuses to take it. When she doesn't take her medication, she lashes out at me. Being physically larger than I am, she has shoved me when her father is not looking, then denies that she did it. She also is overly attention-seeking; no matter how much she is given, it is never enough. My partner and I cannot have a 1 hour dinner out or go anywhere without her, without getting repeated cell phone calls or "attitude" when we return. Friends no longer come over, because, as one said to me as an aside, "I just can't deal with her. Why doesn't [partner] do something about it?" A few nights ago, we tried to watch an R-rated drama and share some wine/quiet conversation, long after she was supposed to be in bed, and she insisted on coming into the den and sitting between us and then threw a tantrum when told that a) the movie was for adults and b) at 11:30P, she was supposed to be in bed. We ask her to run a simple load of laundry, and she will bring it to the basement....but forget to run the washer. She insists on being treated "like a teen" - but we can't get her to help prepare a simple family meal or do her homework without being stood over. She can only read on a 2nd grade level and gets angry when we ask her to put in more effort than she does (her special ed teacher has said that she has the ability - she is just lazy). The last straw now is my dog. My partner gave me a small dog as a birthday gift, with the plan that I would take it for training and have it as a companion during the day in my office. We did not think this would be a bone of contention; his daughter has 2 cats that she begged and pleaded to have. His daughter refuses to comply with the training instructions, sneaks the dog treats, tries to teach it her own commands and throws tantrums when she is told not to do either. You can repeat the instructions 10 times, 20 times or more....and the message still does not get through. When I took the dog for a walk - which had not been a problem - it wandered into the street and refused to follow the "come!" command I had taught it --- because it now responds to "the other" commands. When I, again, explained the whats and whys to her, I was rewarded with, "I don't want you in MY house. I have had 3 years of your sh*t. You're not my mother. NOW GET OUT!" I gently reminded her that I was telling her what I was telling her for her own and the dog's own good -- and also reminded her that I (and not her mother) have been there consistently for her and have done for her what her own mother wouldn't or couldn't do.

I regretfully told my partner that I have "had it" with her. I never tried to be a parent to her - just an adult female in her life who tried to do well by her. But her behavior - and my partner's refusal to deal with it - has erroded our relationship. He still feels guilty over his divorce and I think he subsconsciously feels that disciplining his daughter will harm her self esteem. He has told me that I need to be "more patient" with her -- and I am ashamed to admit this, but I have nothing left. I told him that, since the "dog in the street" incident, I will either have to give up the dog or move out with the dog, because his daughter refuses to listen to reason, unreasonably begs for attention/to be the center of attention and just won't do what she is expected. And the lashing out against me is very close to becoming dangerous. ADHD and the accompanying disorders that some kids have are not a joke. It can make you feel crazy, but I assure anyone reading this and experiencing what I posted - YOU ARE NOT CRAZY.
I am currently going through a similar situation. I and my partner have five children between us and his three children which have been with us for the past three years came with a host of emotional problems along with adhd. Their biological mother also has mental health problems. I understand exactly what you are talking about. I have lost three jobs dealing with the childrens mental disorders and have felt as though i want to run away. I just ignore all the unwanted behaviors and have let them know where I stand. I don't show any fear to them and fortunately I have their father to back me up.
I have a child with autism and boy does it put a strain on the marriage! This is my second marriage-he is from my first marriage. So yes, I think having a child with any type of disability puts a tremendous amount of stress on a marriage. There are many issues that have to be dealing with our children-add a disability on top of it-that stress at least triples.
My current husband is very good with my son but I recently caught him having an affair-I am not sure of anything at this point-part of me wants to stay but the other part wants to run away-sometimes from everything!
I am not in the position to give anyone advice but I do want to wish you luck-I have had to hand my life over to God-which I should have done a long time ago. I choose to feel like things will eventually work out the way they are supposed to-they do for me but I get very impatient at times waiting it to happen.
WOW! So I'm not alone here. All I have to say is, if there is anyone reading this that needs a sympathetic ear or just someone to talk to, they can e-mail me. Maybe together, we can figure this "thing" out.
I have to agree, that kids absolutely can put a strain on a relationship, whether they have behavioral health issues or not. One thing that I learned through hard-won life experience, is that both parents have to present a united front when it concerns the kids. This is true whether the children are with both biological parents, or in a blended family with a step-parent or significant other in place of the absent biological parent.

While I can't really relate to the ADHD issue, as my kids don't have ADHD, they can be quite precocious (sp?) and have been testing the boundaries lately between me and my significant other. We have had to put our collective feet down and let them know that the rules will be followed and there is no leeway. I did have to take on the majority of my ex's little brother's care during his younger years, and we had the same issues with not wanting to take his meds, not wanting to be a productive part of the household, and even though we had the "us vs. you" mentality, it was still such an incredible strain.

As for the ADHD issue that Sandia is dealing with, oh man, I really feel your pain! I don't think that the matter is that you need to cultivate more patience, but rather that girl needs to get her ADHD under control. I would suggest working more closely with her doctor or therapist for skills to deal with this issue. And get dad in your corner by appealing to his sense of logic. He obviously doesn't want to do his daughter harm, hence being so lax on the discipline. Would he simply allow her to stop antibiotics if she had strep throat? Would it be okay for her to not carry an inhaler if she is asthmatic? Her ADHD meds are no different, and it is vital to remove the stigma of having to take meds on a daily basis. Behavioral health needs treatment and management, just like high blood pressure, or arthritis. No different.

I would also really push for counseling for the whole family. Dad needs to come to terms with his divorce and move forward for the benefit of you and his kids, you could benefit from learning new skills on how to deal with the daughter, and she needs to learn lots of life skills as well. This sort of scenario is only going to do more and more harm without professional intervention; the darling daughter is being unwittingly taught that she doesn't need to take responsibility and can hide behind ADHD, she can get her way if she is just manipulative enough, and she is not being shown a very good model of a successful relationship when you and your partner are constantly at odds with each other because of her. I wish you lots and lots of luck on this!


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