11 Rules for Fighting Right and Forgiving Faster

What's the secret to a healthy ADHD marriage? It may be in the way couples communicate when they fight — and how quickly they forgive and move on afterward.

Fighting ADHD Couple, ADHD Relationships
   
 

How to Set Up a Verbal Cue

Successful verbal cues are developed in three steps:

STEP 1: Both partners agree that there is a problem that needs to be addressed, such as using hurtful language.

STEP 2: Both partners agree on a goal. What, specifically, do we want to accomplish: perhaps stopping a conversation before it gets out of control?

STEP 3: Have a conversation about how the cue will work:

  • What the verbal cue will be
  • What your specific response will be: “I will walk away, and you will breathe deeply and regain control.”
 
   

All couples fight. It’s part of love and marriage. But not all couples know how to move on after a dispute — and those who do have a serious edge, and a greater chance at lasting happiness.

The goal for all couples (particularly those with ADHD) is not to stop fighting — it’s going to happen — but to learn how to have “good fights.”

What Science Says

Relationship expert John Gottman, Ph.D., the author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, and his associates have done a lot of research on healthy relationships. Their work suggests that it’s not how often you fight that determines the durability of your relationship. It’s the actions you take when you fight, and how you repair any damage afterward, that predict a relationship’s stability.

Unfortunately, ADHD relationships have the deck stacked against them. Why?

1. Couples affected by ADHD face more ups and downs than do other couples.

2. Recent research done with twins suggests that emotional regulation problems are a genetically linked, core feature of attention deficit. ADHD partners regularly have disproportionate emotional responses at unexpected times. This can leave partners, whether ADHD or non-ADHD, feeling as if they have to walk on eggshells.

3. The non-ADHD partner often falls into a habit of critiquing the ADHD spouse, regularly judging, correcting, and 'educating' that partner to get organized, pay more attention, and the like. The complaining partner thinks she is putting the relationship on solid footing. She isn’t. Most of the time the ADHDer sees criticism and directions as verbal abuse. He feels belittled and attacked, as if he can’t do anything right. His response is defensiveness and anger.

NEXT: Arguments vs. 'Good Fights'

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