“I’m angrier than you.” “No you’re not. I’m angrier than you!”
It often seems like when couples are fighting, they can get caught up in the heat of the moment, and it can seem like one partner is seeking to out-anger the other. This is when the argument has escalated and both people seem out of control.
When one or both partners have ADHD, it can result in a lot of volatility. ADHD often causes emotional dysregulation, (abnormality or impairment in the regulation of a metabolic, physiological, or psychological process), and therefore, more emotional flooding, and more over-reactivity. And when the non-ADHD partner is feeling overwhelmed and overburdened, anger and resentment often result. This sets up a pattern of blaming, exerting control, arguing and giving up. But before the last phase, a lot of damage can be done on both sides.
So what can be done to short-circuit this cycle? it seems like there has to be a better way. The cure is to only have fair fights. This is more easily said then done. For this type of fighting to be successful, both partners need to become aware of when they begin to escalate so that they can nip the argument in the bud. And they needed to agree in advance, that they will use what is known as a “verbal cue” before things get out of control.
The verbal cue can be anything like a silly word or phrase. For example, if one partner says “Green Elephant,” they will take a pause in the “discussion” and either take a time out, or move into fair fighting mode. What are the things to remember in a fair fight?
First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that 70% of conflicts don’t get resolved. So it may be foolish to think that there is a winner or a loser in any argument.
Other things to remember:
- Use techniques that connect, rather than disconnect, ie. gentle eye contact, never staring, calm voices kept to a reasonable level.
- Use “I” language rather then “you” language which will often end up sounding accusatory.
- Be aware of body language. When you get too close to someone, or stand over them, it can be a sign of the desire to dominate, rather then resolve.
- Ask open ended questions ie. “How are you doing on that project?” Rather than “Did you finish that project yet?”
- Reflect back to your partner what you are hearing. This is a very important communication skill that enables you to clear up any misunderstandings of your partner’s meaning.
- Seek to understand rather than to be understood. This one can sometimes be really tricky when there is a point you are trying to make. But in relationship, it’s more important to connect than to just keep trying to win points.
- And, if all of this fails, take a Time Out.
These concepts are not always easy to remember in the midst of relationship break-downs, but they can go a long way toward healing your differences. And it’s important to also remember that you don’t have to always agree, but when you show each other respect, you’re more then half way home.