How Do I Get My Husband To Give Us Another Chance?

A woman wrote me recently explaining that her ADHD husband had announced that he didn't love her, and possibly never had.  She is in the middle of a much-needed reset of her own non-ADHD behaviors - anger, belittling and the like, saying that reading my book made her reassess her own behaviors and that she was actively trying to improve herself with therapy and other hard work.  They have children, and she asks the very important question of "how do I get him to give us another chance?"

Things are complicated slightly by the fact that he had also an affair which, of course, always leads to a skewed view of what romance "could" be like.  Here is my response to her question:

"Affairs are tricky, in that they provide a completely fantasy-based view of what life could be like with another person.  In an affair you get unsurpassed attention and excitement with none of the day to day hassles of life.  It is possible that his "I never loved you" idea is based upon some of that comparison.

There is really only one way you can approach this - and that is to become the best person you can be.  See my chapter in my book about setting boundaries and resetting yourself.  You can't beg or convince him to stay with you - he must be inspired to be with you because you are interesting to him or, perhaps, because you have already had children together and he feels this is worth saving.  When you become the best person you can be you open the door for him to be able to see you as the person you are proud of.  You win whether or not he stays with you because he either says "yes, this is a person I could love" and he stays or he says "even when she is her best person she just isn't a person that I am interested in - it's not a good match" in which case you are better off without him.

The mindset is this - "I will be the best person I can be and my husband will either decide that's worth investing in, or not.  He'll either come along or not.  I have no control over his own behavior, only over my own."  When you focus on yourself, you provide the maximum amount of positive change possible to the relationship.  Whether or not he decides that you are "lovable" once you are the best person you can be is completely up to him and will not reflect on you (i.e. whether you are a good person) but rather on whether the two of you are a good fit.  Two really great people still might not make a good couple.

This is hard to hear.  It's not easy to genuinely understand that you have no control over other people, but there it is."

The question - how do I get my partner to give us another chance? - is a somewhat misleading question.  It assumes that you can "get" another person to do anything.  The reality is harder than that.  With the big things in life, at least, the only person you can "get" to do anything is yourself.  And so this woman needs to reframe her question to be more accurate:  "How do I make myself and my relationship as good as it can be?" and then wait to see what happens.  If you're a "do-er" this approach is hard.  Unfortunately, it's also reality.



I am new to this but feel compelled to respond. I am facing the end of my 43 year marriage to my ADHD spouse. He was only diagnosed about 12 years ago. Unfortunately the years of frustration, anger, feelings of rejection or even worse just feeling invisible have taken a toll. Blow ups have accelerated and my spouse is now focusing on all my flaws which have without doubt become more pronounced over the years. I now see real hate and disgust with me in his looks and his words are tearing my hear apart.  I have become all the things he says but I am the most sad that he does not know that I love him. We are always on the verge of breakup so it is hard for either of us to fully commit. It is just too scary to put your heart out there. I am also a right-fighter...rather win than be happy and so I should not be surprised to be where I am. So much has been lost and there will be no recovery, no future. I cannot even promise to change because it has been said too many times and I don't believe I can.

All the years of wondering what I was doing wrong or even what I could just do to reach him. Too much info too late. I developed certain behaviors as I felt I needed to parent and monitor my husband. It didn't work with my children and it has damaged my husband. Even with this impending breakup I feel the need to manage all the details to be sure it is done correctly which means it is done my way.

Those of you fortunate enough to have the information and tools early in your marriage need to use them wisely and to be sure that as the non-ADHD spouse you are taking a long hard look at yourself. This website is a wonderful resource and ray of sunshine that arrived a little too late for me.


Good luck to all of you who are trying. Keep up the battle if there is a chance.



You don't say how/why the marriage is ending.  He is leaving?  You are leaving? Devastating any way after so long together.  I totally understand where you have been.  Trying to keep things together for home and family and working too you are worn out and he forgets all you have done.  It is not fair.  Sometimes life is not fair.  This is difficult and will test your grace and strength.  I have a feeling you will find your way and will find peace after so many years of frustration and rejection if this ending of the marriage is to actually come about.  As we have seen, once the spouse of the ADDer leaves they have a new appreciation for what you have all been doing for them. But don't know it until it is gone.  Many women (me included) tend to beat themselves up when their dhs ignore and stray.  I hope the next generation of women do not feel the total burden of the marriage success rests with them alone.  Marriage needs to be a team sport....not servitude.  I am sorry you are going through this at a time when we should be walking hand in hand being supportive with our loved one.

You can't change their mind for them

Like everyone here, DH and I have gone our rounds over and over and over again.  We've been married 12 years this week actually.  Every "fight" comes down to the same fact: I can't make DH "do the right thing" meaning I can't make him do what he needs to focus.  I can't take his meds for him, I can't make him see how much time he spends on his latest interest, I can't make him see what it is doing to the kids.  I pretty much just do my best to lay out the facts of what is going on and let him make up his mind about what he wants to do about it and how he's going to "fix" it.  I find it to be much more productive than just complaining or yelling at him about what has been going on.  It's hard to stay emotionally neutral and it's hard to go through his depression that follows one of these talks but the end result is that he initiates and follows through on the solution.  This quote always goes through my mind in the middle of these discussions: "Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still".  It is maddening to keep going through these but I have found that we don't do it as often.  I think the one thing I've had to learn is that loving someone doesn't mean doing everything for them, but giving them the room to fail and learn from that.  Without these boundaries I get sucked right into the fight and we get into the nasty cycle of hurt all over again.  Currently we are in a good place, I hope to stay here as long as possible.

Feeling Lousey because Spouse Looks Down on You for Having ADHD

Hi Melissa,

I had so wished that my husband had had MERCY for me when we were married.  He read Dr. Hallowell's book from cover to cover, which no one, even family had done for me. To see how I ticked and what to expect.  I remember early in our dating that I could see the frustration on his face and basically told him that I did not think it was fair to him to deal with this and that we should part.  He did not want that and I guess was willing to go through the difficulties with me and challenges I faced with myself everyday.  Unfortunately though, he made it look ugly when we were married.  I don't know if he thought that my idiosyncrasies would disappear, although I wish they would have.  But he was constantly on my case because of the ADHD, disorganization, lateness, uptight, and moods.  Mind you I was not being treated for the ADHD at that point.  I had been on other medications, but was in the process of getting a new doctor, which I currently have now.  Unfortunately, he was not able to wait for me to turn around and divorced me.  Needless to say he did not feel that I was smart, giving, loving, sacrificial and other good traits, but told me what I was good at, which I would rather not mention, but you get the picture.  He had told me early on that I did not have the ability to ever get a higher paying job.  

I can't tell you how these kind of things hurt for something that I have been dealing with since I was four years old and also for something that he had read about from cover to cover.  Even with the counseling he never did mention about the ADHD and if he had, would make it look ugly to people.  His thing was tell people what I did, but not why I did it.  I so would have loved to have had another chance with him when I started turning around.  I unfortunately did not start turning around until four or so months before he filed on me.  Needless to say, along with my ADHD was taking care of Grandparents and getting used to married life, his treatment of me, and how he made me feel terrible in my home.  I would love to have the chance now.  I am more alert, where I felt I was in a fog then.  A little more organized, but not perfect and don't expect to be perfect, and lots of other traits that improved when I finally was put on the right combination of meds.  My doctor is wonderful and checks on me every four weeks or so and does not have me all drugged up either.  I look at things differently now with the treatments of ADHD.  I still have work to do in a lot of areas, but it is better now to handle.  

He now is married to a woman with a doctorate in Math (Mathematician), and she is very Athletic.  He is an Architect.  Never thought that someone would have had interest in me like him, but I guess for all the wrong reasons, which transpired after we were married.  It would have been nice to have been given the MERCY that I needed from him.  Those who are having the issues, I wish you well and that you are compassionate, understanding, educate themselves about the ADHD and most of all MERCY for your ADHD spouse.  I am sure it is worth it when you can sit down and see what works and what doesn't.  Isn't marriage suppose to be where a spouse is able to grow because of the other and vice a verse.  Marriage is sacrificial love and going the extra mile when you don't want to.  It is for better or worst, richer or for poorer, sickness and in health.  It is worth the work if it is and that the person is worth it to you.  God Bless  



His focus is leaving

It is very hard to go through a break up w my ADHD spouse.  He so focused on leaving.  We are 6 days into the separation and he is dong everything to move on.  I told him that I missed him.  He said that he misses things, too.  Not that he misses me.  Said he does not want to lead me on.  It amazes me how he can turn the switch off.  Go from loving to hateful in a second.  It tears me up inside.  He still refuses counseling.  I just want him to be emotionally healthy for himself and for our daughter.  But even w him saying the hurtful things and not speaking to me, I am reading the book and planning on therapy for myself.  I will have to deal w him the rest of my life bc of our daughter.  He might be able to shut off his feelings, but I cannot.

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the path ahead

Mic, I'm so sorry for the pain you're going through.  It sounds like he is definite about his decision to leave, and although I share your amazement that he could just "turn the switch off", I think if you search your feelings, your switch has been dimming for some time as well.  You said in another post that you didn't know if you had the energy to fight his leaving.  Maybe that was your heart telling you that part of you has decided to leave too.

Good for you, for your plans to help yourself and your daughter with counseling.  You don't seem like a "wallower", and even through the grief you're feeling, you are also turning to light and hope.  May your path ahead always be open and clear.