Stress of adult difficult children on long-term marriages??


New Member
My husband and I have been married for 26 yrs . It has been difficult, and we have seen therapist.

Actually it has been more difficult now since they are of age, then before, and this includes our easy child. Because, they keep coming back, him more so, even though we say no. I would have never lowered myself the way he does, but does pull himself up by the bootstrap by belittling us, me at work over the phone.

I dont have the emotional support, because I realize now, my husband chooses to be this way. He tries to pull off a "Know one lets me know this stuff". Rather that saying," I am relayy not deaf dumb and blind, I just use you as the guinea pig, dont come whinning to me". So in that respect, you know where my kids get their way of thinking,



New Member
I am just , in my eyes. I amy be, too, but I do things like food or school books, no car, no cash, in most cases. The triangulation that occurs more as they get older is what hurts the most, in my eyes. It seems that I can't trust hubby any more than I can difficult child at the moment. It is a big let down.


Sue C

Active Member
Hearthope -- My husband has always been an "ignore it and it will go away" type person. Always made me angry. I think he doesn't know how to cope so he ignores it, buries his head in the sand.

One big thing that bothers me about my husband is when Melissa swears at me and he doesn't say anything to her. He tells me, "They are just words, Sue. Don't let it bother you."

Something sad about our relationship (and probably many of yours) is we mostly talk about our difficult child. I said one day, "What in the world will we talk about one day when Melissa is finally out of the house? We won't have anything to talk about."

Some of you said you compartmentalize. What does that mean???



New Member
To compartmentalize means to shut a part of your emotional self away in a compartment in your mind so that negative feelings do not overwhelm and contaminate your life.

Detaching is a skill come of compartmentalization, for instance. We decide that some of our emotions are not helpful in the current situation, and refuse to react with fear, or terror, or overwhelming sadness.

We might still feel those feelings, but we choose not to give them center stage so that we can react appropriately to the present moment crisis. Everything goes into the box until we have time to look at it.

Too much compartmentalization over too long a time will lead to rigidity and depression.



Well-Known Member
Thought I had responded to this.

We have been together for 23 years now and for so long it has been just shouldering the responsibilities of the kids together. I guess more to the point...we share the responsibilities of life together.

I dont always agree with how he deals with Cory, he doesnt always agree with me. I get irritated with him sometimes with his selective amnesia over the other You know they were perfect dont you? LOL.

But he also has to live with me and deal with my problems which I know has been difficult. He has stuck by me when we didnt know what was wrong and it would have been so easy to just walk away. We just keep trudging along finding little ways to get thru the hard times.

Barbara has her hour for drinks...we never miss American Idol. No matter if he is out of town working, we call on the phone and watch the show together. People seem to think that is


Active Member
I think Sue the opposite of compartmentalize would be to be feeding into the situation.

whenever husband was getting ready to deploy on military orders we would always get into an argument. One day the flight surgeon had all us wives in a meeting and he described compartmentalization and what our guys were doing to get ready for their mission. He wasn't justifying their actions but letting us know there is a job to do and they have to mentally prepare for it and so they will let other extraneous stuff just go by.


New Member
Here is an interesting observation on the effects of emotional stress on relationship.

husband's mother is spending the month with us. husband has been tossed into some weird, nightmare-like place which he cannot seem to get himself out of.

husband's feelings have affected not only our relationship, but how husband sees himself.

It has only been two weeks.

We have been through so much that I am sure this will resolve successfully ~ but it is interesting to remember back to the days when that trapped, frustrated, enraged feeling was the essense of our relationship because it was our own children we were dealing with.

husband's mother will be leaving in one week.

Such feelings and frustrations DO destroy relationship. That this has happened to us (again) in so short a time has made me wonder how any of our marriages have survived the stress of difficult child children.

Or really, how any of US have survived intact.



Well-Known Member

We never managed well when my mom came to visit. Or should I say...when my mom came when she was how can I put this...not demented. LOL. I cant say when she was sane because she was never sane. She just came to live with us when we found out she had alzheimers and she actually became a somewhat nicer person then though she was still difficult.

My mom was really horrible to us and tried to do some really bad things. Bad bad things. Now that she is gone I have worked on putting that all to rest. I think she had schizoaffective disorder.


Spork Queen
I agree with all that has been said. Probably the single most important thing in our relationship (sadly, we do not do anymore), was getting away once a week and REFUSING to talk about difficult child. It was really hard in the beginning, but it helped us come back to why we got together.

We don't talk about difficult child much these days. It almost seems like a mute point. (Still haven't heard from him. Not good.) But, even with that thought, we don't talk about it.

Someone said, and I apologize because I don't remember who, that it angered her that her husband was growing increasingly happy since difficult child left home. It made her pull back even more from her husband. I can see that...but I'm the one who grows increasingly happy in our household. The further I can distance myself from the daily trauma of difficult child, the happier I am. I never thought about how this made husband feel. With that said, I'm not sure I'd do anything else. It's my own selfish personal sense of relief. Mental survival, if you wish.

There were MANY times over the years we didn't agree on a parenting decision, but we were pretty good at supporting each other with whoever made the call. We NEVER argued about a decision in front of difficult child. That would have been a tanker of fuel to add to the fire.

Most recently I've had to draw the line on some decisions, which could mean the end of a marriage. There are just some things I can't compromise on, nor husband. So...that is where we leave it until push comes to shove. He won't go to counseling, so I'm left with my own integrity and choices.


Sue C

Active Member
Yesterday husband and I sneaked off to a movie while Melissa was on my computer. When we got home, she asked where we had been. I simply said, "Out." (I felt like we had been naughty and I enjoyed it--strange.)

Anyway, on the way to the movie and on the way home, husband and I talked about Melissa. Of course, we always do. He was saying how we can't allow this to go on much longer (letting her live here with-o a job and acting disrespectfully to us). I told him let's set a deadline. He refuses to do so. I'm so frustrated over that. On one hand, he's agreeing we must do something; on the other hand, he's willing to do nothing.

I keep emphasizing to him that she is 21 years old!!! She is an adult. We do not have to take this. It's time for her to go. I said to him, "What if I only had a year to live? I don't want to live my last year of life with her in my house." He didn't "get it." I asked him what if he only had a year to live. I tried to get him to see it isn't fair that she's interfering with OUR lives. He said, "Life isn't fair." (huge sigh)

It has been so long since I posted! Thankfully, we have had several months of "normality" and joy. difficult child is still in TX with her fiance and has STARTED SCHOOL, her own idea, and her maturity level now vs starting college at 18 is incredible!

Anyway, at her height, difficult child almost destroyed our marriage with manipulations, etc. We will be married 27 years this August, but I felt there was real doubt that we would last between years 24-25. I just think all the pain we went through together that no one understands (unless, like you guys, you have lived it) and our basic, strong base, plus our faith in God, helped us through. We also got on the same page, which we had not been on, which allowed difficult child to manipulate us. They were the hardest years ever, but we survived and are now better for it.


difficult child 1 certainly put a stress on my marriage--the kids' dad died when difficult child 1 was 8 yrs old and she had him up on a pedestal (naturally). She was not happy about me remarrying. I am lucky my husband stuck with me through all these yrs--we have been married 10 yrs now. I think it has gotten easier since I took off my blinders and realized how manipulative difficult child 1 is. Also easier because she no longer lives with us! Also, I know my husband loves her despite herself--sometimes I think he has a softer spot in his heart for her than I do.

Through these 10 yrs we have managed to get out by ourselves almost every weekend, no matter what was going on at home. I think that has helped a lot, helped us keep our relationship alive. We really enjoy each other's company and we both love to dance (we met at a contra dance). I really love to go out with him and sit at a bar and have a couple of beers and just talk. I look forward to that every Friday night.

This was a great topic to post about!



Well-Known Member
I won't even describe how our marriage has been effected (or is
it Affected???)...but the impact has been considerable. The economic impact has been greatest. The lack of "alone" time has
been a problem. Most days we are just absorbed by GFGness and
working for survival. I love husband. husband loves me. We would have
stayed lovers and forgotten the wedding ceremony if we had known
what the next thirty years would be like. Sad but true. DDD


Active Member
Terryforvols - I totally agree that our strong base is the only thing that has kept us together. It will be 27 years for us in May.

jbrain - I wish that we would have taken more time for our marriage especially when our son was living with us. Now, we are alone at home though the grandkids and other son (easy child) visit and call frequently. Plus...we both have busy jobs and we volunteer a lot too - lol.

ddd - I do know what you are saying.


New Member
How interesting that this topic should have come up again today.

Since the first time this thread was posted, we have had a "bad" phone call from our difficult child.

And here is the interesting thing: in reading back my own comments, I realize that phone call tossed me right back into some hellish place I had thought I was done with, forever.

I am looking out from there right now.

I am only on the edges of that place, this time.

I posted about it because the feelings are so real. Even after all this time, even after all we have been through, the feelings that come up ~ anger, frustration, shame, that dull, aching sadness ~ they are all still right there, just under the surface.

So the challenges difficult children bring, not only to our marriages, but to our concepts of self, are real.

The amazing thing is that any of us have managed to hold it together, at all.



Active Member
Barb - I so understand. With the exception of a brief visit in early March, we have had no contact at all with our son since February 5th. I do call occasionally but he has caller ID and never picks up. He doesn't pick-up for husband either.On one hand, I like the peace and quiet at my house. On the other hand, I do love and miss him in some weird way. However, I am still leery of a long visit though or doing something alone because of his tendency to blame me for everything wrong in his life and I just am not sure I want that chaos.


Well-Known Member
Well, husband and I have been in couples therapy ever since M got out of the house. It's as though we aren't sure what to do with ourselves when it's just the two of us. Not that either of us could ever imagine (or want) a life without the other, just that life is different without all of the trauma/drama.


My husband and I had been married for fifteen years before deciding to become parents, and we had had wonderful together times during that period.

Even though we were both happy in our jobs and marriage, NOTHING prepared either one of for our feelings of completion and "rightness" when our son arrived. I can still remember when he was just a few days old, standing in the kitchen, surrounded by sterilized bottles and baby paraphernalia, feeling exhausted but completely and utterly fulfilled for the first time in my life. My husband agreed.

Then, those ugly middle teen years pretty effectively dried up any joy we had in our son, and we were at odds a lot of the time. There have been many, many times when we have been nowhere near the same page as the other and have completely disagreed as to how to handle various situations as they've come up.

Now, 17 1/2 years later, our son is out of our home, at least temporarily, and we both feel as though we've been through the wars. After we got through the initial grieving (and that's what it was, pure and simple...), we've really had to work hard to rediscover ourselves as a couple.

It was VERY difficult at first, finding ourselves alone with each other, because for so many years, we defined ourselves as parents rather than a couple (BIG mistake...). But, I realized what we both should have realized long before that we were a couple first and would continue to be long after our son was out of our home, difficult child or easy child.

It's taken six months, but we're both finding so many things we lost along the way when we were so focused on dealing with our son's issues--things as simple as stopping by Borders to pick up a couple of CD's and then actually playing them while we have a Margarita out on our patio. Or going out to dinner. Or popping popcorn and watching a DVD.

Someone told me once that the best cure for depression is to simply do something that makes you feel good. Sounds easy, but it's the most difficult thing when you can't think of anything that will bring you joy. But, it's worked for us, and we both feel as though we're gradually climbing out of the pit.

This is a great topic. Unfortunately I haven't had time to read through all the experiences yet (but I will).

I know my and wife's marriage has gotten better over the years, 17 now. The first few years were the hardest, we were both divorced before and one of the side effects of that is being too ready to give up next time... but we hung in there.

Part of what made things better was when each of us recognized and admitted how our own (i.e., bio) kids were trying to manipulate our relationship. We had to work to achieve a united front.

Raising our granddaughter has brought us much closer. She has become the center of our lives. But we still manage to get off alone together now and then: we've built up "capital", so to speak, bynviting other couple's children over for "play dates" which they feel obligated to reciprocate (heh, heh, heh). We never thought that we'd be in our 50s and involved in PTA and kid sports with the twenty- and thirty- something PPs, but we kind of enjoy observing the younger set doing everything for the first time and nodding to each other thinking, been there done that (heh, heh, heh).