1. How can I get my partner to stop criticizing me?

    One reason you’re still in the room arguing with someone, is because YOU ARE STILL in the room…. arguing with someone.  ‘If change is to happen, let it begin with me’ is a theme here at RealHope so that’s the first order of business. You may be powerless to get your partner to stop criticizing you, but you can stop listening to it by leaving the room.  Now, leaving the room in an agreed upon purposeful manner, which does not escalate the tension in the room… that’s the trick.   Luckily, that’s exactly covered in one of the Five Agreements.  Get the Knowing When And How To Stop Arguing 9 page booklet download.

  2. One of us is often ending the relationship, or says things that can’t really be taken back.

    This ‘abandoning language’ and disrespectful treatment will erode love and commitment! The Time Out agreement is the only thing that can stop this erosion from destroying the relationship. People think they know what a Time Out is, but often do not leave the room properly. There are only two simple rules of taking a Time Out. Read more here.     People that often end the relationship or say things so outrageously disrespectful will probably tell you that they meant it when they said it.  But, most will also wish they could take it back and they regret saying or doing what they did.  The ‘abandoning language’ and extreme levels of disrespect are more likely simply showing how HURT, SCARED, PAINED, SHAMED, SAD OR POWERLESS the person is feeling in the moment.  These are all vulnerable feelings.  It’s more like an expression of being overwhelmed with feelings that the person does not know how to express and the person is flooded with adrenaline, which impels immediate action; and thus the explosion of leaving, shaming, blaming or withdrawal.   When someone cannot say they feel the vulnerable feelings then the hostile, aggressive, judgmental or withdrawing behaviors take over.  It’s a defense against the vulnerable feelings.  The Hurt People…Hurt People  graphic here in the Real Hope Blog shows this pattern visually.  This figure is also know as the ‘Vulnerability To Hostility Conversion.’

  3. What if my partner is not interested in participating?

    Even if your partner does not want to make the agreements or learn the skills, you can execute a one-sided version of the agreements and skills.  Try using the skills for  three months and you master the skills of  ‘sweeping your side of the street’ by acknowledging how your behavior can upset your partner, and expressing yourself most constructively and respectfully to ask for what you want.  If the relationship does not feel as if it is moving in the direction that you want, then you can end the relationship without the guilt of wondering if you could have done more to make the relationship work. You will know that you could do no more.   The agreements and graphics and exercises in the Free RealHope Couples Course Sampler should help you get off to a good start.   

  4. Is there abuse in this relationship?

    This is a big subject for the RealHope site.  There are many important points to make; and much more is written here about the subject.  What I’ll say about abuse here briefly is that it doesn’t matter if someone ‘intends’ to harm another person.  If the experience is painful, and if a person has been told that a behavior is upsetting and the behavior continues (ie. yelling, blaming, shaming, name-calling, stone-walling, silent treatment, holding wrists or shoulders, or any other physically controlling behavior), then we  could call it abusive.  Intent does not matter.  I’ve heard a man in my domestic violence group talk about pointing a gun at his wife.  When his wife, and the group, talked about the controlling abusive nature of that act his response was, “She knew I would never do it.”  That’s the way people talk about frequently saying, “I’m out of here!” or “This isn’t working.  I’m moving out.”   Apparently, many times people say these things they don’t really want to do what they are saying they are willing to do.  So, the intent is not important.  It’s the EFFECT ON THE PARTNER that is more decisive in calling abuse.  In the RealHope Respect Agreement the idea of what qualifies for disrespect is agreed to be totally defined by the person who feels disrespected.  The other person cannot deny or avoid the feelings expressed by the person who feels disrespected.  In our Respect Agreement, when the agreement is invoked then there are very specific tools that both partners commit to using.  These tools will probably allow the couple to move through the incident.   Read more about abuse here.

  5. My partner won’t forgive me for something in the past.

    This is often heard from someone who has:

    A. Not taken full responsibility for the behavior that wounded the other.

    B. Not communicated the impact of the wounding on the partner’s thoughts and feelings.

    C. Not asked humbly for forgiveness and more importantly has not changed behaviors.

    So, until these things are accomplished we do not look at the other person’s inability to forgive. We look at the first person’s difficulty showing responsibility, empathy and remorse that fuels action to change. The fact that there is irritation upon being reminded of the pain caused by you may be evidence that you are still in a denial of being responsible for the deed.  One of the things that someone who has been wounded needs to do is to talk about when he, or she, is reminded of those feelings.  If you cut off these expressions too soon, they will only keep surfacing.  It is not that the person will not forgive you.  It is that you may not be letting the person express for a few months, or even a few years the pain that was felt, or that they are triggered by something to be reminded of that pain.

  6. What’s the difference between RealHope & Toxic Hope?

    RealHope for change means that there are measurable ways that the relationship feels better.  Most pain and reasons to end a relationship involve not feeling respected or desired.  The RealHope Course provides simple measurable ways that partners can feel that things are improving.   For instance, RealHope for relationship growth involves each partner saying what their area of improvement is.  Let’s say that a partner is not even saying, “I have a problem of raising my voice and intimidating you and I want to stop that.”   Then, what are the odds that the person will improve by not yelling so often?  Not very much.  It would be Toxic Hope to think that would change, since the person did not even commit to changing it.     Toxic Hope allows continued exposure to negative experiences without evidence that it’s changing for the better. The Real Hope Program is designed to offer simple measurable benchmarks that the offending behaviors are diminishing. See the summary of the Program HERE.

  7. How do you handle disrespectful behavior?

    You can’t argue with disrespectful behavior. One reason you’re still in the room arguing with someone is because YOU are still in the room….. arguing. Methods to separate and come back with both partners owning their part in the problem can be learned HERE. The RealHope Course speaks to the difference between getting angry and getting abusive. The skills and agreements of the RealHope Course can change disrespectful patterns. Sometimes it’s important to accept that one partner’s abusive behavior is not going to change, sometimes even when that partner says ‘I want to change.’ The RH Course lays out a clear strategy for finding out if there is RealHope for change. Learn about abusive behavior HERE.