Hey there. This is my first post here, but was immediately taken by your situation as it is very similar to mine. I could write in great detail my story, but suffice it to say my wife of 16 years has suffered in the same way your wife has. We’re in therapy and I’m still only hoping it’s not too late to save it. But I can tell you what I’ve learned through therapy and repeating the same cycle of improving for a while, and slipping back again and again, causing my wife to lose faith. Please remember as you read this that’s my comments are about me, not you. But maybe you can relate or get some free insight that cost me a lot, and not just in money.
Realizing what you’ve done and how it’s affected her, and taking responsibility for it is just a tiny (but hugely important) step. If you truly understand in your brain and heart what your actions have done, congratulations! What I had a harder time accepting is that my “profound” realization and heartfelt speech wasn’t at all earth-shaking to my wife. Surprise! She already knew those newly realized truths, and hearing me admit it out loud to myself and her was (forgive the analogy), like hearing a person tap their champagne glass before giving a toast. It got her attention, but only briefly. What needed to follow was the real meat of me accepting responsibility, and that was taking serious, intentional, consistent actions to better myself and change my behavior. When I was diagnosed with ADD, I was lucky to find a medication and dosage that worked for me fairly quickly. I was (for a short time), hyper-focused on reading all about ADD. The problem I fell into was that since the medication did a lot of good, I took the easy way out and didn’t follow through on the other tools that HAVE to happen to make a true change in me. I glossed over the tools I was too lazy and uninterested in following through on. I refused to make healthy changes to my diet that every book recommended, I didn’t keep up with a good exercise regimen, I didn’t consistently use lists, set alarms, or any of a myriad of other tools proven to help ADD folks organized and focused. Oh, I’d try a few things here and there when another slip caused yet another problem, but as soon as things got better again I’d let my foot off the gas thinking I finally had it “dialed in”, only to slip again. I kept up with the meds because they were EASY, and they made me feel immediately better, so they were a positive reinforcement that I recognized immediately if I didn’t take.
My wife got sick and tired of my tearful apologies and promises to do better, only to have the cycle repeat, again. She got tired of me trying to justify why this kept happening because she wasn’t giving me the support and positive reinforcement I felt I needed to succeed. She lost her trust in me, and her belief that I was truly committed to the marriage and family, because I never truly owned my responsibility to keep using every tool at my disposal consistently. So she gave up, and the thought of a future without me in it became happier than a future with me in it. Hearing her say she didn’t want to be married to ADD anymore hit me harder and deeper than I would have thought possible.
Fast forward to today. I have now FINALLY realized that if I’m trying to change my behavior to make HER happy, I was doomed to fail. I now understand that I need to change my behavior because I want to be a better version of myself, FOR MYSELF, because that’s the person I want to be. If I could do that, then maybe, maybe she would see it. I didn’t announce my tools, lists, diet changes, extra time set aside for my kids, or any of the other changes I made. By that time, my words didn’t mean shit, it was my ACTIONS, over TIME, that needed to do the talking. It’s lonely, it’s scary, and it’s no guarantee to turn things around, but it’s genuine, it’s real, and it’s done first and foremost, for ME, not her. She’ll just the benefits too. I also had to realize that if I was hoping my actions would change her mind, it was like I was trying to control her. “If I do this, she’ll love me again” is a temping lie to tell yourself. The fact is, if she sees your positive changes but still doesn’t feel she wants to stay, then that’s on her, not you. You can only give her the best version of yourself you have to give, the rest is in her hands. I’m still waiting to see where I end up, I TRULY hope you find the right reasons and motivation to actually initiate true and lasting change. If you do, I’ll bet she’ll see it, and it sounds like that person will have a better chance than the one she’s experienced over the years. You CAN change, but it’s up to YOU, for YOU.