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One Sure Way to Improve Couples Communication with ADHD & Autism

 "Stop interrupting me!"

"Would you let me finish my sentence please?"

"If you didn't interrupt me when I was speaking, then you'd know how I feel."

These became common phrases my husband and I would say to one another as we were trying to have serious and/or sensitive conversations.

Conversations became arguments, and well...

Neither of us were our best selves.

That is until we implemented One Sure Way to Improve Couples Communication with ADHD & Autism.

One Sure Way to Improve Couples Communication with ADHD & Autism

Jason struggles with pausing before speaking in conversations and interrupts often.

His ADHD, autism, and other mental health issues impact his ability to communicate in multiple ways.

Think impulsivity, executive functioning issues, struggles with strong emotions, and so much more.

This does not mean that he's bad or wrong. It just means that conversations can be challenging.

When he speaks he tends to speak for a long time going round and round, and I lose track of his main points.

I become frustrated because I never get a chance to speak and get confused trying to keep up with all of the twists and turns of what he's saying. 

This results in me interrupting him just to get a word in edge wise, before I forget the main point.

Obviously, the situation worsens.

As you might guess, this is a recipe for disaster.

Both of us needed help when it came to communicating with each other effectively.

After having three children with ADHD and autism, when there's an issue in our house, my brain automatically goes to problem solving mode.

What supports can I put in place to help the child be successful?

Because our communication struggles were impacting us in big ways, my brain decided to do the same thing with my husband.

What supports could I put in place to help him?

That's when the idea hit me.

What if we used a timer?

What if we set a timer for five to ten minutes, while one of us spoke? 

The other could take notes on a piece of paper to address on their turn.

Would that help?

My instant gut reaction was that it would help, but this was something that both my husband and I had to agree to try. So, I asked him about it.  

At first he was a bit nervous and felt a little uncomfortable, but eventually went along with it.

Sure enough it worked!

I am so thankful he was willing to try.

Couples Communication with ADHD & Autism

Our conversations may last anywhere from 10 minutes to hours, depending on the subject, but there are no longer interruptions, harsh words, or either of us feeling like we're not heard.

The timer provides Jason with a visual cue to pause. The pen and paper give him a chance to write down feelings, emotions, thoughts, and questions, as I'm speaking in a safe way.

By the time he starts speaking he's able to communicate more effectively and calmly.

I feel heard, which feels amazing.

The paper and pencil also help me to keep track of the main points of what Jason is saying, even when he takes a full ten minutes to express his thoughts and he jumps from topic to topic.

We've been using the timer during serious conversations for about six months now. I don't think we'll ever go back.

The timer has made that much of a difference for us.

Over time, because of the timer, we've also been able to discover and communicate what we need from each other in regards to knowing that we're listening.

Jason loves for me to start my turn speaking by recapping what he said, or at least the main points in a couple of sentences. I now can do this because I'm able to keep track!

He feels validated when I do this.

I, on the other hand, appreciate when he's able to comment positively about something I've said or how I've said it.

When he starts with a compliment, I know we're in a safe space to talk about big feelings and he'll be okay.

The timer may not be the solution for everyone, but it can help so many.

In order for it to work at all, both parties have to agree.

Whether you or your partner have ADHD or autism or neither, this may just may be the perfect solution for you!

Psst! It also works with your kids, especially teenagers.

For those who would like more couples resources related to autism and ADHD and would like to follow our story, be sure to subscribe to our FREE newsletter.

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If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the resources below.

Overcoming Struggles with Autism I Think My Husband Has Autism It's Time to Have a Serious Talk About Autism Morning and Bedtime Routine Visuals and Supports Chores and Practical Life Visuals and Supports Outdoor Visuals and Supports

One Sure Way to Improve Couples Communication with ADHD & Autism

1 comment:

  1. Your first few lines made me laugh so hard!!! (Okay, so it was an inward laugh as the kids are all asleep, but, ya know....) You perfectly described us there at first. We don't have the round and round bit, but my hubby gets so frustrated when I interrupt him (Me: Sorry! or You paused!..or... I'm just trying to guess what happened!, etc). However, he interrupts me at times too, haha. I've delighted lately in pointing those moments out to him, hehehe.... And the emotions.... Dude, I spend all day supporting the kids with their emotions. I don't exactly want to then sit down with my hubby and try to discuss something important and him explode for whatever reason. We've had a bout of that lately. Ugly. Our anniversary pulled us out of that negativity, gratefully, as we just spent the day together. Anyway, we'll have to try out the timer when we are at risk of things getting nasty. Thanks!