What'st the long term?


New Member
I guess that's the question we all have, isn't it? I've been dating a wonderful woman for the last few years. When I met her I thought her son was "merely" rude and insolent. As time went on I became more aware that he had serious emotional issues, something I had never experienced as a parent (my kids are pretty well grown and gone). Ultimately he was diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder. After many court battles with her ex (who believes this child just needs more discipline) she has just now succeeded in getting him into a treatment program (age 13).

We've talked about it -- his destructiveness, how me makes that household walk on eggshells, etc -- and the effect it has on our relationship. There are days I'm happy to have my own home to retreat to(we maintain separate households). We've talked and reached an accomodation that the next step in our relationship will have to wait.

I'm used to seeing children hit 18 and go off to college and spread their wings and build adult lives. Do these children spread their wings? Is it realistic to think that 5-6 years down the road it's just (by and large) the two of us, or am I being delusional?

That's what I don't know. I'm early 50s and will be late 50s by the time that I consider "wing-spreading age" for her children is reached. Am I being realstic or am I just kicking the can down the road? I know that I can't live with this child under my roof, it would drive me crazy and I'm sure it would alienate my children.

Thanks for letting me vent.


New Member
You may want to check out the Parent Emeritus posts and see what people have to say.

My kids are too young to know the answer to this and I believe its different with each child. While I'm sure at least one of my difficult children will be ready to head out, I'm also sure at least one of them will have a more difficult time leaving the nest.


Well-Known Member
To be 100% honest, the only answer anyone can give you is, "We don't know." ODD rarely stands alone--he could have other disorders that haven't even surfaced yet and if you don't feel you can accept the worse, in my opinion, than you may want to re-evaluate what you want. This woman can't assure you of anything and the child himself probably doesn't understand why he acts the way he does. He may never go to college. He may. He may go and get into trouble. One thing to understand is that mental illness is pretty much genetic. My fourteen year old is NOT defiant or mean, but he is on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. He will forever need a little help and will never go to college, at least not with tons of support for kids with special needs. He is fourteen, and fortunately my grown son wants to look out for him when we're gone. I wish we could give you a specific answer, but if you pursue this relationship further, the only thing you will know is that you don't have any answers. It could get better, stay the same, or even get worse, and you have to prepare yourself for that, and realize that most likely your girlfriend will put her child first (although THAT I can't say for sure--don't know her). I know *I* would though. There is no guarantee that she and you would be alone after he reaches 18 or even older. Take care.


Well-Known Member
Hi! My son has ODD and he is 20. The troubles only got worse as he grew.At school-constant suspensions.At home-lying,stealing, wrecking the house...etc.. He got kicked out of the Marines before he even left for Bootcamp. But now he is 20, living on his own, working, paying his bills, and is doing fine. We had a hard time(an understatement if there ever was one). We even had to get a restraining order against him at one point. Now we do have a relationship, we went out for dinner with him and a friend last week. College was not for him, even though he is extremely intelligent. But really, who knows?-He's only 20. If you love your girlfriend, and can find time for yourselves when things get rough, and YOURself too-and you can really live like this, then stick with it. I know the feeling of "I can't live like this", and I know life is short, I don't like to waste time being upset and walking on eggshells. No one should-luckily you have your own home to retreat to. Don't take it to the next step,as you said, you can't live under the same roof as the child. You can, however, get the finest support here.-Alyssa


This partially depends on his mother, too. Is she, at some point, willing to detach if that's what needs to happen? And that may be a question she can't answer yet. I know I used to be appalled by people who I saw "ignoring" their kids. Now that I live with one, I have a whole different point of view and I'm learning detachment well (I think).


Good luck, My husband married me without having any idea what it would be like to live with an ODD child, he was in placement when we got married, so it wasn;t a day to day issue. I am 52,he is 49. It has been very difficult for both of us, we have been married 4+ years. He had thought about leaving at times, me too, but we truly love each other and are making it work fo rthat reason. My husband just plunged right in, we only knew each other 4 months, and we deeply believe in the vows and committment. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, him too.
If you feel you can't live with the child, then please don't do it. My son is 17 and I don't think it will end when he turns 18 in May.
Do what you feel is best for you. Good luck.


Active Member
Hi! The Parent Emeritus group would probably have more answers. Try Ross Greene's book "The Explosive Child" to get a perspective on the "wiring" of the ODD child. It's an easy read and not super technical. Some of the techniques work on some kids and not on others, but it truly does give you some really good insight as to how the child "sees" things.

Welcome to the crowd!!!

Well, no one can see the future but you can get some clues from the other people in the family.

I was a difficult child. So was my father and so is my son. My father left home as soon as he could to fight in WWII. Although he became an alcoholic, he always had a decent job and took care of us the best he knew how. I went to college at 17 and never moved back to my parents' house. I put myself through college, got a job, etc. I'm on medications but doing fine. My boy is 6 and he'll be just like me and my father. I'll never be just like other folks but who wants to be, anyway ;)?

Basically, some of us do become productive, reliable citizens, perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves and our families and are not burdens on others all of our days. Depends on the person, the family, the coping tools they learn, if they are responsive to medications, etc. ... and probably some luck. There's my story, if it's of any comfort to you. Good luck!


Active Member
if heaven forbid, one of your own children were severely injured in an accident, and you had to take them in and care for them for the rest of their lives....would your girlfriend love you enough to stay on?

no one knows the future.


Well-Known Member
Excellent point Ant'smom!

I think it all depends on the intervention and support the family receives. You could actually impact the family in a positive way helping to allow that boy to achieve success. By the way, success to us is: a law abiding, tax paying citizen. We do not expect college, careers, huge homes, etc. - but if we get it (and some do!) it is gravy in our eyes.

My difficult child just started her first job yesterday. My boyfriend probably feels the same as you - although he has never expressed it. He is not great at communicating altough we are working on it. I would love to hear him say that to me though. I would totally respect and agree that we should wait for difficult child to move on if he thinks he could never live with her.

You are wise to pursue more information, but unfortunately there ar eno guarantees for anything. Every child is different, just as every ODD child is different.


New Member
Thanks. I know there are no answers. Just helps sometimes to sound of to someone who is not my girlfriend. Her son, by the way, in addition to be ODD has also been diagnosed as ADHD and depressed. One diagnosis threw in a possible bipolar disorder. Now that the legal troubles with her ex are over medications will be starting soon.


my kids were 14, 10 and 7 when I remarried after my husband's death. He had no idea what he was in for! He had 3 children who were pretty much grown at that time and none of them were difficult children. Still, he understood about raising kids and he felt he could help--he felt so bad about the kids losing their dad and about me losing my husband.

It turns out that difficult child 1 (the middle child) had many more problems than we had anticipated (I knew she was challenging) and it was hard for my husband because he could see her manipulating me all the time but I was so defensive about her that he couldn't really say anything to me. She had several different diagnoses--depression, adhd, borderline personality disorder traits, possibly bipolar,odd, etc.

I felt so guilty for having gotten him into this mess--I told him many times that if I had known how many problems difficult child 1 had I would never have married him. She ended up in residential treatment to the tune of $50,000 out of our pockets--I still feel bad about that--we'll both be working beyond our retirement ages, that's for sure. But, somewhere along the line, I realized he really did love us and despite all the problems he wants to be with us.

My younger dtr is also a difficult child in her own way--not defiant, but many emotional problems and I feel stressed over her most of the time. The older son was the easiest I guess but also was not easy in the way my husband's own children were.

We have always made time for just the two of us--we go out every single weekend to do something fun (we love to dance so that is what we often do). Also, I am the main disciplinarian and parent--being a stepparent he can't just walk in and take over--so sometimes I feel overwhelmed with that.

It will not be easy for you guys but from my own experience it has gotten better. difficult child 1 no longer lives with us and never will again (she is 19). She is doing okay on her own and I have come a long way in detachment from her. difficult child 2 does not put the same strain on the marriage. I would say the hardest, worst years were when difficult child 1 was age 13-17. Our lives were so chaotic and I was so desperate to "help" her--she was the total focus of my life--yuck!

Good luck,


Active Member
Hopefully medications will help. But he's entering teen territory, not a nice place.

Someone suggested "The Explosive Child" - grab a copy. Also, I strongly recommend you get girlfriend to read here as well, post - whatever. Any help we can give has got to make it easier on both of you.

My best friend is in a relationship with a lovely man but they are still keeping separate households. They're both mid-Fifties. But he has a son, technically easy child, who is a real handful. Son is also a qualified doctor and so is financially independent. But he is not emotionally independent and frowns on his father having a girlfriend, even though his mother died six or seven years ago. But his relationship with his mother was so close as to be unhealthy, and he has resented his father almost all his life. Now he expects his father to put his emotional life on hold indefinitely.
The father has, however, made it clear to his son that he isn't waiting. However, he's not forcing the issue by moving in with girlfriend or having her move in with him. Slowly they're working things out, but this adult, so-called responsible professional person can still throw some amazing tantrums, all because he still loves his mummy and doesn't want daddy to be unfaithful to her memory.

So sometimes you can't even count on adult PCs to let you have the relationship you feel you nee,d when they are supposed to have spread their wings.

And these days, they so often come back to stay, with grandkids.



Well-Known Member
Although family support and interventions are helpful and can make a huge difference in the lives of our kids, there is still no guarantee that if you do all the right things, the child will grow up to be a responsible adult. Unfortunately, MANY great parents, who put their heart and soul into helping their children, could not make the child a normal functional adult. Since you asked about the relationship, the answer is still a big question mark. If you expect to step in, be a strong disciplinarian, or get him the right help and then he'll be a respectful, compliant young man and go off to college, you could be VERY disappointed. If you feel this is a very important issue, in my opinion, the best thing to do is to either just date this woman, and see her when her son isn't around, or move on. Problem children are often problem adults. And it's sooooooooooo hard to predict who will make it and who will crash. Maybe you and your girlfriend should start in pre-marital counseling so you can both get a good understanding of what you are both stepping into. Good luck.


Active Member
my boyfriend and I met when I was 50 and he is 3 yrs younger. we have seperate houses, but sleep together at the house du jour for the last year or so...I forget.

he met my son at the height of drug use 3 or more yrs ago. my son would not even acknowledge him when he met him here. months later, my son was in jail for the next two yrs. my boyfriend went with me thru two yrs and three counties, to visit my son. my son was 21 when he went in, is now 24. my boyfriend paid his fine of 1200.00 to get him out last year. he then employed him, taught him the construction biz, drives him to and from work and pays him well. why???/

I think ant is a project for him. I also think it is because he loves me.

since ant has been in trouble recently I have told boyfriend he should go ahead with his life and date someone else with no problems. he said everyone has problems and I am worth him sticking around.

it is not going to go away. the child you see is going to go thru puberty, etc. some days I know for sure boyfriend hates ant. but the next day he starts again. can you do that another....let's say for example...rest of your life??

if not, bail out now.


New Member
Thanks for all the thoughtful responses. Its interesting that two separate threads seem to wind through some of the responses, briefly characterized as "I'm sorry that I ever did this to my husband" and "Maybe its you who is not ready to step up to the plate/what if it was your child?"

Other interesting threads include those I have seen in the Parent Emeritus group. Right now I don't know the answer to what seems the $64 question often asked there: if necessary would she be capable of detaching (if it came to that), or does she see this as a cross to bear forever, regardless. Its also one of those questions that can't be answered until the moment it becomes a real choice.

Yes, I have a copy of the Explosive Child, which she gave me. Seems fitting that when he stumbled on the book he ripped the cover off.

For now we are in a holding pattern. I've seen the resentment and anger that her son has brought on in her daughter -- "why am I denied a normal life?" and a stand still is the best I can do while I wait and see how he responds to treatment --and I learn better how to deal with him.

My thanks to all who took the trouble to respond, and to all the other posts on this forum that I have learned from.



I think it also has a lot to do with what your expected role would be. I am a single mother and I do not date because my children are my focus; my difficult child takes a lot and easy child gets the rest. I simply don't have the energy nor the inclination to give to someone else. If I were to date, I would not expect, nor would I allow, someone else to parent my child. But that's just me. I'm a tad bossy. :wink:

Would it be easier if your role were better defined to be support for mom and not expected to play the dad role? I understand that you would still "live" with the behaviors of the child, but if YOU could detach from the child and let mom be the parent and your focus would be to be there for mom maybe it wouldn't be so difficult. Just a thought...

Good luck.


New Member
Support for the mom basically has become my role. I'm told the son rants about me to the therapist -- one more authority figure to defy. I can say that until know I've never had a child tell me to "go f*&k yourself."

Does it sound too shallow to admit that part of my reluctance is that I couldn't imagine having my house end up looking like what he has done to hers? I think every door is broken in, gouges out of the cabinets and walls, you name it he's broken it. Including jewlery I gave his mom that he destroyed. He's rebroken stuff I had already fixed once in that house. I've worked hard to create a nice home, it's where I raised my kids. I know I would resent having my home end up in that state.

Too much uncertainty to make decisions now, especially as I read the forum posting on substance abuse and from teh emeritus parents.


Active Member
Just wanted to pipe in, and say that I was married, briefly, to a man that thought he could handle my son. He and I loved each other, and my son and him got along very well in the beginning - but............ once we got married everything changed. My son resented his authority, and my ex became extremely resentful and hostile of my son and his actions. He sounded a lot like you in your posts. "When will difficult child be better?" Will he be moving out at 18?" "I have never had a child treat me this way - you have to do something."

Consequently my son's illness went from a 4 to a 10 in the matter of 6 months. My whole life became worse than I could have ever imagined. My ex was constantly upset, disappointed, and mad - and my son fed off of that. In the course of 3 years my marriage broke up, my son was hospitalized twice, and I was on the verge of losing my sanity. It was the worst decision I have ever made, for me, or my son - and I am sure ex would agree. Had we stayed dating - we would still be together..........I know that for a fact.

I can already hear your doubt in your posts - and truthfully, in my opinion, that doubt will turn into anger if you take on the responsibility of raising him as your own. It will just be too much. And truthfully, as harsh as this sounds, and of course this is only my opinion - as much as you love this woman - you will be making her life and this boy's life more difficult by inserting yourself into the middle of an already volatile situation.

Just had to share my own experiences - please feel free to take or leave it - and good luck.


New Member
WeepingWillow -- thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate the spirit in which you share them.

To be clear, it wasn't so much a question of expecting to be able to say "he's 18 why is he still here" as much as wondering how life gets better. Or even if it gets better. Its about changing expectations, more precisely knowing what to expect. I was very comfortable in a world where I had a pretty good idea of what the milestones were in raising children. That somewhere along the line they would go off to college and that after a decade as a single parent life would get easier and be more about me.

I can already see this child's anger towards me rising steadily. There is no doubt in my mind that a 24/7 presence would make it much worse. For me, for everyone.

For now I see no alternative but patience.