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The Beginners Guide to DBT with ADHD, Part 5c: Ending Bad Relationships

Updated: Feb 6, 2023




Ending Bad Relationships


Throughout our lives, we will form many relationships. For those of us with ADHD, many of those relationships will come and go simply because the people are not in our lives every day and relationships that are out of sight unfortunately often become out of mind. There are also many times that we will find important relationships that we may want to hold on to, even when it might not be healthy for us. Important relationships come in many forms, such as friendships, marriages or other long-term partnerships, relationships between parents and children, relationships between siblings, relationships at work, and psychotherapy or counseling relationships, to name a few. The extent to which each of these relationships improves or degrades our lives is determined by the relationship.



Using Distress Tolerance Skills to “STOP” and Think



Even if we are in a good relationship, there are times when we want to end it because we are frustrated, angry, or otherwise unhappy. Unfortunately, many people with ADHD end relationships because they are in emotion mind and react impulsively. Most of the time, these feelings go away and we forget about them. If they had waited until the feeling was gone, the value of the relationships might have been very different.


When we are highly aroused, we tend to act based on how we feel, and we lose the ability to look at our relationships in a balanced way over time. Also, it gets harder for us to think clearly, communicate well, and solve problems in our relationships. High negative arousal can also make people more judgmental, which can make the conflict worse. As a fight gets worse, we might walk away from a relationship out of extreme anger or frustration. In the end, we might wish we hadn't left. It might also be impossible to get back together.

This would be a good time to use the distress tolerance skills we learned in Part 4.

When Does it Make Sense to End a Relationship?


When a relationship destroys either the quality of the relationship itself or something about the person in it, like their body and sense of safety, their self-esteem or sense of integrity, or their ability to find happiness or mental peace, the relationship can be called destructive. When a relationship gets in the way of your important goals, your ability to enjoy life and do things you like, your relationships with other people (which a very jealous partner or friend might not like), or the well-being of other people you care about, it hurts your quality of life.



If you decide to end a relationship, you can use the skills you learned in this article to assist you.



DEAR

At first, it's most important to be clear and direct. Explain what went wrong in the relationship that made you want to end it. Tell them exactly how you feel, and make it clear that you want to end the relationship. Ask the other person to confirm that he or she knows the relationship is over, and if you can, let the other person know how ending the relationship will be good for both of you. If this isn't the case, think about how a happy ending will be good for both of you.



MAN


Maintain your focus and confidence. If you are sure that ending the relationship is the best thing for you, you shouldn't give in to pleas to stay together. This may be especially important if the other person thinks more highly of you than you do of them. Be careful not to go too far, though, unless you really want to stop talking to that person forever. For example, you may still want to be friends even if you want to get a divorce, end a sexual relationship, or move out of a place you share with a roommate. So, it's important not to burn more bridges than necessary. GIVE


Be gentle. Avoiding attacks, threats, judgments, and condescending words and actions can be a big help in ending the relationship in a peaceful way. This can be hard to do when the guilt of ending a relationship makes it easy to blame and judge the other person. Even if you know you're planning to end the relationship no matter what the other person says, you should still listen to and respect their point of view. This can make it easier for you and the other person to come up with a way to break up that affects the other person the least.

FAST


Lastly, be fair and don't say you're sorry. If you want to leave a relationship with your self-respect intact, you have to be honest about the problems (even if you frame them in a nice way) and not give up your values or integrity. This can be especially hard if you're ending the relationship because you've changed and not because the other person is doing things that make it impossible for you to stay together.



Playing it Safe

Before leaving a relationship that is very abusive or puts your life in danger, call a local domestic violence hotline or the toll-free National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for help planning for your safety and to be put in touch with a qualified professional. See also the International Directory of Organizations Working to Stop Domestic Violence at www.hotpeachpages.net.



Your Mental Health Matters

At the end of the day, we need to do what we can to make ourselves happy. ADHD can cause life to be a rollercoaster of emotions. It's up to us to try and balance that with our "wise mind" so that we can know when it's the right time to stay, and when it's the right time to leave. Staying in a relationship that brings more stress than happiness can quickly tip the scale into an unhealthy place and prevent you from being the best version of yourself and finding the support you need. In the final article in this series, we will talk about dialectics and how we can try and see things from a different perspective.


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