Reader Desperate To Stay Together writes,
My husband and I have been married for 8 years, together for 13. We have a 3 and a 6 year old. It's been really rocky for the last 5 or so years and my husband has decided that he wants to be separated. He says he doesn't think he loves me anymore and needs some time to himself.
I have ADHD and depression and have not been the best partner. I feel like I can't do anything right by him and don't know if I should fight for our marriage or not. I want very badly to remain a family and work on our relationship, but my husband says he won't go to a counselor. I am scared and sad, and I just don't know what to do.
I'm so sorry you're going through this tough time. I do think and this and most (at least many) marriages are salvageable, if and only if at least one partner gives his/her complete all to changing for the better. In this case, it's going to be you. Just because he says no to couples counseling now doesn't mean that he always will. What it does mean is that right now he feels so hopeless and upset that the last thing he wants to do is go to some counselor. He just wants to be done with all the pain and move on.
Are you seeing your own therapist? If not, you must start. Depression and ADHD are both very difficult to live with, and you owe it to yourself and your kids to work on these issues as best as you can. A good psychiatrist is also essential for medication management; ADHD is very tough to control without meds. If you're also depressed it is unlikely that you have the emotional and mental resources for all the compensatory behaviors and strategies you'd need to deal with ADHD without being medicated. Once a week therapy would be ideal. Less than every other week would probably be less than what's needed. You can also work with a couples counselor, even if your husband is unwilling to go.
Now we move on to what you can do and say to encourage your husband to recommit, cautiously, to the marriage. If you want to remain married, you must tell him this outright, and tell him how important he is to you and how much you love him. Discuss what exactly you love about him and why you haven't been able to show your love openly (the depression and ADHD are probably contributors to this). You must wholly and completely empathize with his experience in the marriage. You say that you haven't been the best partner; you must specifically tell him why you haven't been a good partner and what you are working on changing for the future. He may not even be aware that you think you were a bad partner, and hearing from you that you are aware and that you're sorry may soften his stance toward you a bit.
You have to own your actions and take full responsibility for them. Not half responsibility, like, "Well I know I was difficult but it was because you acted cold." That's not owning anything. You can ask him to tell you the top five things he is unhappy with and ask if he would stick around if you worked on them as hard as you could. If he says yes, you must be prepared to actually do this. You must be open and honest and non-defensive. This is a conversation to be had without the children present, and possibly without them even in the house at all. There is a time for you to tell him what you're upset about too, but this isn't it. He's about to leave and you seem to want to save your marriage, so right now is the time to focus on how you can work on yourself and address his needs.
If your husband still says he needs time, then perhaps separation is for the best. You can intensively work on your own issues during the separation and think about how to be the partner you want to be in the future, whether with him or with someone else. You can think and write about what you learn about yourself, and how your upbringing affects the way you act now within relationships. You can read the books I always recommend, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love and Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, 20th Anniversary Edition. For you, I'd also recommend The ADHD Effect on Marriage: Understand and Rebuild Your Relationship in Six Steps so that you can gain perspective on what it's like for your husband to be married to someone with ADHD. If he understands that you're willing to try and change, you may be able to convince him to go to couples counseling, too, where he will learn to work on whatever behaviors he was doing that also contributed to the marital dissolution.
I don't know if your husband loves you or not, but often people say they don't love someone when they just feel hopeless and helpless in general. It is hard to feel love when you are in so much emotional pain. It may be that he will start feeling his love for you again if you put yourself out there emotionally and make yourself vulnerable to him in a positive way, by empathizing, committing to changing for the better, and telling him you love him and want to stay married to him.
Good luck, and keep me updated. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Wants Your Marriage To Work.
This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Pre-order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family.
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