Free Tips For Couples

Marriage And Relationship Advice / Communication Skills
 Anger Management Tools

‘Frustrating relationships get better, and good relationships become GREAT!’

Your Relationship Does Not Need To Have High Conflict Arguing In Order To Still Learn Great Communication Skills!

These are fantastic conflict management methods for use at home or work!

Here are some free Stress & Anger Management Communication Skills for marriage relationships in conflict!  Stop the arguing and start understanding each other with effective, practical and useful free exercises and tips for couples.  Read the five topics from the manual below to see if you think our style of helping relationships could work for you, or your marriage.   Seminars in Los Angeles, or buy the manual, .pdf or podcast summary.

These agreements and skills are so basic and come from common sense, that many people say about my course, that it should be taught in high school, or even elementary school. The point for newlyweds, and couples who have low conflict levels, is that you will accomplish one of two things.
1. – You will learn these skills in a way that helps you divert from a path including lots of arguing.
2. – Or, you will discover that either you or your partner is incapable of keeping to the agreements and is unwilling to get further help. Now, I would rather find that out early in the beginning of a relationship, or before marriage, than many years later.

One Of These Techniques Could Save Your Marriage Without Marriage Counseling
Or Save You From Being Fired At Work

—> Stop Destructive Arguing –  On A DIME!  This one tip can completely change a relationship; but BOTH people must come from the same rule book!

—> Expressing Anger Constructively – Without provocation & blaming.  Open the ears of your partner to hear you.

—> Respond to Anger Without Getting Defensive– If you don’t get defensive when I tell you what bothers me, then I wouldn’t have to keep pestering you! It can be done!!

—> Respect Agreement – It’s not ‘what you’re saying’, it’s the ‘way you’re saying it’.  Make it safe to talk about how you’re affected by your partner’s ‘tone of voice.’ When is anger management necessary?

—> Should I Stay or Leave? – How to decide if there ‘Toxic Hope’ or’Real Hope’ that you’re relationship can change.

A GREAT Relationship Exercise- This exercise may help you decide if there is Real Hope for your marriage relationship or if it’s Toxic Hope to believe that your marriage or relationship can change.

Why Do People Act Mean And Hostile Or Withdraw?  This graphic shows visually the process of how vulnerable feelings turns into hostility or withdrawal.

Scroll down the page for samples of workbook topics to see how this manual can help your relationship become better and better!

Time's Up

Time’s Up

Time Out Commitment- Stop Destructive Arguing Before Bad Things Happen

“WISH I HAD TAKEN A TIME OUT.”  by Anonymous & Divorced

Please read the following paragraph and ask yourself which of these values you can feel genuine in saying out loud to your partner. Both partners make the following commitment out loud to each other.

I am committed to not tolerating hostility, violence, harsh rejection or contempt in my relationship with you. If you say the phrase “I need a Time Out”,  I want to see myself stop talking and let you leave the room to take a time out. I’ll trust that you will state a time that you will return to finish talking more respectfully about the problem. (eg. 1/2 hour or 1 hour) I will not prevent you from leaving the room, or continue to shame, blame or yell at you if you say you’re taking a ‘Time Out’.

I seek progress and not perfection. If I cannot reasonably honor this time out commitment then I must admit that I am ‘out of my own control’ and will put more effort into changing my behavior by going to individual therapy, anger management classes, groups, or even going to a psychiatrist to see if I have something like a mood disorder that medications might help.

The solution for stopping an argument before it turns destructive is for the couple to learn to take “Time Outs” early enough so that the passion of the moment does not have couples saying and doing things they regret later. Usually, when a couple has a lot of adrenaline pumping through their body, both of them are in a ‘fight or flight’ state of mind. This means that they are seeing each other as either predator or prey. Listening to one another is almost impossible. There’s only a feeling of being defensive, going into withdrawal or attacking or running

I know it sounds simple, but that’s why it works. I’ve worked in domestic violence men’s groups for 28 years and can tell you that 70% of the court-ordered men who attend our anger groups were arrested for an incident that involved someone trying to leave the room. Or because someone made abandoning or rejecting statements just to make their point or get through to the other person.

Rules of a Time Out

  • Use the phrase, “I’m taking a Time Out.  I’ll be back in an hour.” This makes it official.  If you do not use the phrase Time Out, then the other won’t know that an agreement is being called into being.    And, if the the one calling the Time Out doesn’t say when they’re coming back it will likely feel that your abrupt exit is just a power and control maneuver.  So it is crucial that you say the phrase Time Out & when you are returning.
  • The person who takes the time out is the one who leaves the room.
  • Saying Time Out is a statement, NOT a question.  It is a  ‘NO MATTER WHAT!’ agreement.   If your partner says Time Out you must let them leave the room without further questions, statements, comments, shaming or blaming.  The agreement you made with your partner is that you would stop talking and let him, or her, leave the room.   If you cannot reasonably follow your agreement then YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR OWN CONTROL, and probably need some professional help.  No amount of saying, “If he didn’t to that then I wouln’t follow him or call him.” will justify that you broke your agreement.  If one person does a proper Time Out and the partner does not respect it, then that person is out of control.  You can’t blame your way to saying it’s O.K. that I broke my agreement because …. (fill in the blank).
  • Taking ‘time outs’ is the cornerstone of restoring trust within a relationship that has been damaged by intimidation, dominance and fear of being controlled. The time out commitment is presented with an emphasis on both parties making the commitment out loud to each other and following it up with successfully practicing the method, especially using it before you think you need to use it.


It’s the most common statement made by both partners after bad things have happened is that they say Seeing evidence of the partner’s attention to physical and emotional safety can allow one to begin to trust that these terrible build ups to explosive anger, hostility or violence are becoming a thing of the past. Using time outs is also the measuring stick with which someone who feels abused can make a decision about staying in the relationship any longer. If a respectful request to agree to the guidelines of a time out is turned down by a partner then the impossibility of achieving safety becomes absolutely evident. The person who won’t agree to the rules of time out is saying “I reserve my right to use intimidating, controlling and hostile tactics to get what I want”.

Without an explicit agreement between partners, what happens when someone tries to end an argument because it’s getting too intense, angry or destructive? I probably don’t have to tell you that the one who is left behind feels abandoned, rejected and furious. The questions, exercises and advice given here will WORK if you both make the commitments to each other, and do the best you can to mean what you say and to do as you say.

Women struggle within the relationship.
Men suffer after it’s ended.  Change NOW!

The time out section continues with knowing when to take time outs and identifying warning signs that anger is becoming destructive. Warning signs include thoughts, feelings and body sensations which can be watched for as cues that one is close to losing control. These cues then become the trigger for taking a time out. When coming back after a time it is critical that at least one of the partners is able to say….continued in the workbook.

This blaming and aggressive pattern never ends well.

This blaming and aggressive pattern never ends well.


In some relationships there is someone who shames and controls the other with the contempt and rejection in their words or in their tone of voice.

Blaming is hostile, and it reveals vulnerability.

Blaming is hostile, and it reveals vulnerability.

See Vulnerability To Hostility Translation graphic below.

Let’s take Al and Bev. No matter what problems are discussed it comes back to how it affects Al, because he makes that the subject. Only he doesn’t talk about how it affects him, he makes his wife Bev feel bad for calling attention to how he may have hurt, disappointed or shamed her. Al may be having a bad sales week at work, or he may just be selfish and always want to have things go his way. Instead of saying “Bev, I wish you would….” he says “You always… ” or “you never…..” and he may throw in some “You’re an idiot.”, “Why did I marry you?”, “I can’t take this anymore!” or “You make me sick.” lines just to make Bev feel worse. Why????? Because Al is not very good at saying “I’m scared about my job.” or “Bev, I need your help.” So instead of saying “I feel bad.” he makes Bev feel bad. Psychologists call this projection.

He can’t say “OUCH!” so he makes you express his pain by saying, “Here’s what’s wrong, bad and unacceptable about YOU!”

Al may also have an underlying belief that tells him “If I make her feel bad enough, she will change, or at least she’ll stop calling attention to my shortcomings. After all, isn’t that how people change?” Or he believes that he is expressing his feelings. He is not expressing his feelings though…..he is expressing his contempt and rejection for Bev. The strategy often works as a diversion because it does indeed change the subject. However, there is a cost to the relationship that he is most probably completely unaware of. The problem for Bev is that it is very difficult to come back to normal relations after several experiences of feeling completely rejected by Al. She will likely develop passive-aggressive responses to show her resentment. (ie. forgetting things, doing the opposite of what Al wanted …etc.)

Since she’s not allowed to show her anger verbally Bev will unconscously do the VERY THINGS that bother Al because she needs an outlet for her resentment.

Now Al can claim that he’s correct because she does seem to be wanting to ‘piss him off.’ He just doesn’t realize that HE COULD BE THE PRIMARY REASON why she continues the passive-aggressive behaviors.

Al’s unawareness of how his tone of voice conveys contempt and rejection is crucial here. Since he is not aware of how cutting or hostile his expressions are, he is completely confused when Bev reacts so strongly to his words. He may truly not understand why she is now either combatively battling him or emotionally distancing herself from him. It wasn’t so much what he said that made her feel rejected. It was ‘HOW HE SAID IT’! It was his tone of voice.

Al will not let Bev talk about the ‘way in which’ his feelings are expressed. He may interrupt her, ignore her, shame her, demean her, call her insane or too sensitive, minimize her feelings, rationalize his behavior, justify his rage, intimidate her with his voice or his body, withdraw emotionally or physically or pout in a rejective manner…etc. etc. All this in order to cut off Bev’s simple statement “I feel hurt by your contempt and rejection.” Bev is not allowed to talk about feeling abused, hurt, rejected or put down by his words, his tone of voice or by his physically intimidating manner of speaking. The unspoken rule in their house becomes-


Bev cannot talk about the HOSTILE ‘WAY IN WHICH’ AL TALKS TO HER. The essence of ‘Handling Conflict With Confidence’ is that it is now O.K. for either partner to stop the dialogue and shine the spotlight on how hurtful, rejectful, demeaning, parental or contemptful the words of the other feel.

You now have an agreement with your partner so that there is a method that moves you beyond petty arguing and into the realm of respectfully trying to understand each other.

The agreement is simple, direct and effective. And it includes what to do if the person cannot or will not stop using a hostile, parental or shaming tone of voice. The agreement made between partners is…………continued in the workbook.


—> Expressing Anger Constructively


The missing piece when there’s blaming communication “I need…”, “I want…”, “I feel…” or “It makes me think that…”.Sometimes anger is expressed by blaming the other person and doesn’t include an expression of what’s going on inside of the person who is expressing the feeling. In short, the person expresses ‘This is what’s wrong with YOU!’ rather than “This is how I’m affected!”

As long as a person is talking about what she thinks, feels, fantasizes or wants then there is less reason for the partner to feel threatened or provoked. This style of communicating is often called making ‘I statements.’ The value of using ‘I statements’ is that there is no labeling or mind reading of the other person’s motivation or intent.

When ‘I statements’ are used as shown here in the Empathic Request method developed by Pacific Skills Training, there is also an ‘out’ given. An out is when a person says what he or she needs to feel satisfied. A request is made for both understanding and for action. Since a request is made, it can be responded to and granted. Men especially need to know that there is something that can be done to satisfy their partners. When no request is made the expression of frustration becomes  just a spewing of feelings, too often giving the listener too many options of responding. The result is usually a defensive response. If practiced the ’empathy request’ model will eliminate the bulk of the needless arguments that occur because of character attacks or not saying what is wanted or needed to end the conflict.


This means that if you are going to express your experience of being hurt or disappointed, you will benefit by first doing a ‘First Pants’ statement that is related to your concern. For instance, I may want to speak with my partner about not having enough intimate time together. So, before I do my Empathic Request, I first say a Pants Statement. Something like, “I know I was not attentive lately, and I was harsh with you last week, so I understand how you may not feel close to me. I need to work on not getting harsh like that and also showing you more attention.”   This is the Pants Statement that precedes the Empathic Request. In other words…. First Pants…. then Shoes!

Expressing Anger/Hurt/Fear/Disturbance & Making Requests

Is This About Me, Or Is This About You?Is This About Me, Or Is This About You?

Talking about your needs and feelings instead of labeling or blaming the other.

I cannot argue with what my partner thinks, feels, wants or perceives as long as s/he states it as an “I statement” (ie. It makes me think….;  It makes me feel…etc.)  If I say to you that I felt hurt, sad or angry, how can you argue with that?  Can you say “You shouldn’t feel that.”    Or worse yet “You can’t have that thought.” Or the most violating comeback – “No, you don’t have that feeling.  I know better than you what you’re feeling.”  And it’s always negative.  I can say how I’m affected, after I’ve listened all the way through.  Many arguments escalate because one person is presuming to have the authority to pass judgment on whether or not their partner should be allowed to ‘have a thought or feeling.’ (ie.You shouldn’t think that.; You shouldn’t feel that.)

One rule in our workshops is that NO ONE CAN BE ATTACKED OR CRITICIZED FOR STATING HONESTLY WHAT THEY THINK OR FEEL. So if someone states an “I message” (ie. “I think ____.” or “It makes me feel_____.”) there can be no argument about the fact that the feeling exists. It obviously does exist.  The issue really is how does that AFFECT the other person?   So after acknowledging having heard the other’s thoughts and feelings, it is very appropriate to say “This is how what you said affects me.”  Now you are talking in the ‘This is about me.’ realm. When you respond to someone else’s thoughts or feelings by telling them that they shouldn’t or didn’t have those thoughts or feelings then you are operating in the realm of ‘This is about you.’


Even when there is no direct shaming or dismissal of a person’s ‘I statement’ there can be a real sense of invalidation when the statement is avoided, interrupted or ignored. For example, Martha says to Gene “I felt hurt that you didn’t get me a birthday card.” Gene’s first response is to tell her how busy he’s been. Because his first response to Martha’s expression of feelings was to explain his point of view she rightly sees that his priority is to defend himself; and not that he cares about what her experience is. So she gets a sense of Gene’s values by the nature of his first responses to her expression of feelings. It’s more important for him to defend his point of view than to empathize with her feeling.

Seeing that Gene doesn’t care about her disappointment Martha grows even more angry during this exchange. Only now it has less to do with the forgotten card than it does with the fact that Gene doesn’t seem to care about how she feels. She’s run into this many times before with Gene.

Almost every time she tries to express a feeling he takes it personally and immediately defends himself. Even when her feelings do not involve him Gene somehow manages to make Martha feel bad or wrong about her feelings. She thinks Gene talks down to her like she was a little girl, who needed her daddy to tell her the right way to feel or think. Now they’re off and running with a contentious argument. The reason for the argument is not the card incident. That was only the trigger for Martha’s longstanding resentment that Gene has trouble listening to her feelings.

Vulnerable Feelings Are Often At The  Root Of Aggressive And Withdrawal Behaviors



The top graphic also can be downloaded HERE.

There are many reasons that people, especially men, cannot seem to put words to these vulnerable feelings. But, my personal and professional experience is filled with examples of how someone was rude, aggressive or mean, when the real problem was that that person felt one of these vulnerable feelings. For example, someone who unconsciously feels very low self esteem or self worth ends up treating others as if these others were worthless and not deserving of respect. When the person can talk about their more vulnerable feelings, then often there is no need for the aggressive and hostile behavior. Getting the men in our domestic violence men’s group to be able to express their more vulnerable feelings is a very important part of our work with them.

Gene is probably anxious around her emotions because he doesn’t know how simple it is to listen to her hurt feelings. He is busy avoiding being seen as responsible for her feelings. In that effort he makes it clear he doesn’t care about her. He would benefit a lot from the chapter on ‘First Pants….then Shoes’ about how to listen to person who is angry. He could have ended the argument easily if he had first said “You’re right, it was insensitive of me to forget your card. I know I’ve done that in the past also. I don’t want to make you feel unimportant to me. I’m going to make it important to me in the future to remember these things.”

In the example above, is Martha making a statement about Gene or about herself? Because she used the ‘I statement’ method of saying “I feel _____ .” it’s clear that she was simply expressing her feelings. She was saying “This is about me!” Gene may be hearing something completely different. He may be hearing a statement about him. He hears it as “This is about you, Gene!” If he hears it as a statement or definition of his character then he may feel compelled to defend himself. So naturally he explains himself and offers excuses or reasons that justify his lapse of remembering to get Martha the card. He is defending his character and feels attacked by her expression of feeling.

Since Gene’s first response is dedicated to defending himself against what he perceives as a character attack, Martha experiences him as not caring about her feelings. Gene may indeed care about Martha’s disappointment, but because he responded first by rationalizing his mistake he conveys to her that his priority is to protect his good name. So Martha has a legitimate reason for thinking that he doesn’t care about her. So often, this is the nature of arguments when the real subject is “I don’t feel cared about or valued.” but the argument appears to be about other things. If people, especially men, could begin to allow their partners to express this feeling without immediately defending it they would avoid getting into deeper trouble by trying to defend themselves.

Asking yourself “Is this about me, or is this about you?” before you speak when you’re angry, or when listening to your partner’s anger, is a great method of good communication. The guideline is this-

  • When you are angry make the comments in the form of “This is about me.” “This is how I was affected by you.”
  • When you are listening to another’s anger then listen with the framework of “This is about you (her feelings, his experience)”

This works best if you can also say how you are involved in creating the experience of your partner.

When emotions are running high it’s extremely helpful to have a set statement ready at the tip of your tongue that you can rely on because you’ve memorized it. You simply fill in the blanks with the thoughts and feelings that you’re having and VOILA you’ve made your ‘I statement’. Now you’re ten times less likely to provoke the other, by labeling or mind reading; and also more likely to have your partner HEAR and respond to what you’re thinking and feeling.

The exact sentences to use are not as important as capturing the spirit of simply expressing what you think and feel; rather than labeling, shaming or mind reading the other person’s intentions.

Use the written format provided in the workbook and express the next 20 shaming and blaming statements using the empathic request model.


         Hearing Another Person’s Anger Without  Getting Defensive.

It’s The Sequence!

Responding To Your Partner Using The ‘First Pants… then Shoes’ Method

The need to defend oneself is a powerful reflex. So powerful that it makes people say things that only gets them into more trouble. Showing that you see how you may be responsible for causing your partner’s hurt or anger and that you care about it enough to do something contradicts our natural instinct to protect ourselves.

I saw a special on Discovery cable about the training of Secret Service agents who protect the President. The head of training the agents said that when most people hear a gunshot they have a natural reflex to  move away from the sound of the shot. He saw one of his difficult tasks as retraining his agents to MOVE TOWARD the sound so the agent could quickly disarm the assassin or protect the president.

At Pacific Skills Training Co. we have a similar difficult task. When a person feels attacked by their partner the most natural human response is to defend oneself. Defending can be through defensive arguments, by withdrawal or by attacking back. The goal of the First Pants…then Shoes method is to respond to the anger of another without making things worse by defending yourself right off the bat. You can always defend yourself later. But once you’ve begun defending the other person legitimately feels you are not listening or that you don’t care.
We call that ‘Putting on your shoes before your pants.’
At some time growing up you probably learned that if you put your shoes on before you put on your pants, then putting on your pants becomes a difficult, if not impossible task. We learn this sequence and rarely make the mistake of reversing the order later in life; because of the difficulty that it creates.
The shoes in our illustration represents defending oneself by making excuses or trying to get our point of view (P.O.V.) heard first. The metaphor of ‘First Pants …then Shoes’ reflects the idea that anger can be handled better for all concerned if we deal with it in a certain order. That order is best defined by: (It’s in Manual)
The first instinct is to defend yourself. But instead you respond to your partner in a way that shows that you are responsible and that you care about how she was affected. This means that when you hear your partner’s angry offended tone of voice your first you MOVE TOWARD THE ANGER in a way that shows you’re interested in addressing it. Yeah, relationships are tough. This almost makes the Secret Service Training look attractive, doesn’t it?
Without accepting all the blame can you see where maybe you made a small mistake. Are you even 2% responsible for the problem and how  that affects your partner? Your tone of voice? Your assumptions?….
Is it possible that you were insensitive, fearful, dishonest, mean or selfish? Are you capable of saying any of these things about yourself? Are you capable of saying these things before you get the other to understand your point of view?

For example: Bill is late again in coming home from the office. Bill knows that his wife , Jan, has reason to be upset that he was late for dinner, but was so irritated by the tone of her scolding voice that he failed to acknowledge her feelings and instead defended himself by saying angrily “It’s not so big a deal. You’ve been late, before too!” which only made her more mad.

If he had first acknowledged that indeed he was late and showed that he understood how he affected her, he could thenproceed to talk about being irritated by her tone of voice. She would not be so infuriated at him for invalidating her feelings that perhaps she would then be willing to listen to his feelings about being being talked to in a scolding manner.

The emphasis here is on the sequence of acknowledging the other’s feelings before getting the other to understand YOUR point of view. That means listening and reflecting feelings of your partner, even when you believe that the thoughts, those feelings are based on, are inaccurate.

Bill demonstrates this if he says “I’m sorry that my being late again hurt you.”; even when he knows that the accident on the freeway coming home from work is an understandable excuse. Jan would rather hear that he’s concerned with her experience than that he’s got a good excuse.

The ‘First Pants then Shoes’ technique deals first with the issue of responsibility. First acknowledge that your behavior affected the other person, then defend yourself by explaining your side. Isn’t it true that Bill’s history of being late and the fact that he is late again is the cause of Jan’s hurt and angry feelings? What does Bill lose by simply acknowledging this fact? He’ll have time to give his reasons later. If he’s more concerned with being right than with how his wife feels he will be right, but he will also be alone. He’s distanced Jan by showing her that it was more important to defend himself than to show that he cares about how she felt.

If he fails to acknowledge how it makes sense for Jan to be upset he’ll spend hours arguing with her, when he could be done with the conflict in three minutes!!

Picture your most comfortable pair of jeans or slacks. Now see the words ‘I did something‘ embossed on the right pant leg and the word “I understand how that could affect you.” embossed on on the left pant leg. The shoes represent trying to get the other to see your viewpoint, rationale and feelings about a situation first. Now go ahead and put your shoes on first. Yes, they go on! “Halleleuia! I got my excuse out there first. I made sure that my excuse was loudly proclaimed. Now that I’ve explained myself she’ll stop hammering me won’t she? I’ll show her that I care about her feelings AFTER I exonerate myself. Oh sure, I care about what you went through Jan.” Now try getting your pants on (showing her that you’re aware your behavior affected her and that you care). It’s very difficult to do. Once Jan had to fight to get her feelings heard she becomes even harder for Bill to console. She doesn’t want to fight to have her feelings heard. This is a shame because Bill actually does care about Jan’s feelings. He was just moreinterested in defending himself. He put on his shoes first. It’s just the sequence! Show you understand first..then defend, or present your point of view.

It sounds simple doesn’t it? It is simple. It’s just not easy. The workbook helps you practice, practice and practice some more on hypothetical examples so that your reflexes are conditioned like a jet fighter trains in a simulator, to respond in the manner you were trained…. without thinking.
Learn this skill through video simulation training at one of our Los Angeles Real Hope For Couples Communication workshops. Learn more  HERE.

Video Relationship Conflict Coaching

Your particular relationship problem may be a simple matter of some brief instruction, or brief summary of agreements to make with your partner.  Half hour  phone consultations are available with Marc Sadoff, MSW, BCD.   The session will be scheduled for the first available time available.  You should be speaking with Marc within 24 hours, in touch via email to set up your phone coaching session.   An appointment will be set for a phone session with 5 days of your purchase.  Click HERE for more info about coaching.

Your phone consultation with me will give you practical solutions and hands on advice for you and your partner.  If you can follow direction and are willing to do what it takes to stay connected with your partner, then keep this URL bookmarked for possible later use.

It may very well be that I give you an instruction for an exercise in our first session that helps put your relationship back on a course for healthy intimacy again.

Couples that do the phone or Skype coaching receive a complimentary downloadable podcast and eBook Seminar Manual, normally costing $24.95.

To answer the question who started some verbal argument most people will find themselves pointing their fingers outward toward others. Think about a situation when someone was upset with you. If that person led off his description of the problem by saying what role he thought his own behavior had, as a factor in the behavior of yours he wants you to look at. Doesn’t that feel easier for you to take more seriously the issue the person has with you?

It’s very easy to think, “I didn’t do anything. Why is he/she so upset with me?”   My experience as an anger management and couples specialist has shown me that many people are simply unaware of their ‘tone of voice.’ By this I mean that they think that they are just talking, and are unaware that there is an edge to their voice that sounds aggressive and intimidating.

This Course Is Divorce Prevention

Newlyweds use this course to prevent problems and avoid creating a long history of bad experiences.

I’ve often heard seminar attendees tell me that they wish that they learned these tools and skills in school. About 30% of my seminar couples have discussed divorce or breaking up. Sometimes, there are so many incidents of extreme disrespect or abandment experiences that, even if they learn the skills and make significant improvements, they are unable to overcome the heavy weight of the pain of their history. Although, even in these situations there is hope that using the skills and agreements may help to reestablish a trust that the future will be better.

What To Do If The Couse Doesn’t Work

My Home Study Course, which is a summary of the ‘Handling Conflict With Confidence Seminar’, has a safety net for when someone cannot reasonable execute one to the prior four agreements. In particular two of the agreements. The Time Out and Listening Exchange agreements are the main ones that can be used as measuring sticks for whether there is REALHOPE for change, or not. The Time Out agreement says that I will let you leave the room if you call an official Time Out, without yelling or blocking a doorway. The Listening Exchange agreement says that I will take turns with you being the speaker and being the listener, when one of us calls for the method to be used.

Get the Summary Podcast AND the .eBook  seminar manual as a download now!

Download Audio & eBook Course

 go HERE . That’s the whole seminar manual as a .pdf and a 72 minute podcast of Marc explaining how the Five Agreements and the Two skills work together. All five agreements are spelled out and the two skills of responding to someone who is angry and expressing your own frustration most constructively are covered. It’s almost like being at a workshop. You can be healing your relationship within five minutes from NOW!

Some people are very willful and selfish they may not respect the simple rules of the agreement that they made out loud to their partner. Or, some people have a medical/mental health issue such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (ie. abuse as a child,in a war ), head injury, medication complications resulting in agression or apathy, borderline personality disorder, alcoholism and substance abuse, sexual addictions, undiagnosed or non-medicated bipolar disorder, some other mental health disorder which leads to impulsivity.   Or in much of my experience the person who is out of control; evidenced by their not being able to keep his, or her, agreements is simply willful or selfish and is often repeating patterns of relationship that they learned growing up in their family or in their culture.

So, my last agreement is,  “If I cannot reasonably execute the prior four agreements then I want to see that I must be out of control, and would want to see myself seeking further professional help.”   And, that is the backstop, or fifth ageement.

 This is a FANTASTIC couples exercise that demonstrates the power of taking responsibility,
acknowledging your partner’s feelings an making action amends.

Each of the statements below is a ‘W-A-M’  or a ‘Pants Statement.’

Please do yourself a favor and do this Exercise!  Available as a FREE Download

Instructions for the exercise, in the manual,  called ‘I Play Some Role In Our Conflict.’

Download this exercise as a .pdf at no cost. For ease of printing, by clicking HERE. Make two copies. One for each partner to fill out. Also, scroll up and down this web page for more Free Tips. This is the first exercise we do in the monthly Los Angeles Couples Two Day Workshop.

Do any of the following statements apply to you? Check the ones that apply to YOU. There is no writing about the other in this exercise, except for how your behavior might affect the other.

___ I am aware that you have rarely heard me say, “I made a mistake.” I know that makes you feel as if I’m totally blaming you. I will try to tell you when I know I’ve made a mistake.

___ I can be very judgmental and act like a parent with you sometimes. I know that makes you think that I think I’m better than you. That’s not right, and I want to change that, without blaming you.

___ I have difficulty saying that I might have done something that hurt you, saying that I’m aware that what I did, or did not do, has hurt you. I know that makes you think that I don’t care about you, or that I’m not accountable for my behavior. I’ll try to be more sensitive to how I may have hurt you in the future.

___ I have difficulty getting away from the idea that one of us is right, and that the other therefore is wrong. I am self-centered when I do this. I can see how my attitude makes our conflicts worse. I understand that you might think that I think that I won’t leave any room for your experience. I want to improve my ability to simply empathize with you. I’ll try to stop judging what or who is right and wrong.

___ I have trouble seeing that your feelings are legitimate and that they make sense to you. When I cannot understand them I sometimes make you justify them, which I know makes you think that I think your feelings are crazy or stupid. I want to get better at accepting how you experience problems, without trying to invalidate your feelings by making you defend your thoughts and feelings.

___ I am aware that I often get caught up in the argument of “whose fault is this” or “who started it?” It makes you think I’m unwilling to see what role I play in the our conflicts. This means I’m unable to tune in to you, trying to understand what you’re feeling. I’m going to stop the blaming.

___ I sometimes justify my behavior, when I’m really just feeling guilty, defensive or confused. I know this makes you think I’m unwilling to be aware, or show, that I’m responsible for any part of our problems. I want to stop justifying my bad behavior with you. I want to stop justifying my rudeness.

___ I am aware that sometimes the tone of my voice sounds harsh and rejecting. I can see that it would be hard for you not to defend yourself when I speak that way. I know that makes you think that I have contempt or disrespect for you. Or, that I don’t care about you. I want to work on speaking more respectfully to you. I am open to you saying, “Ouch!”, “That felt harsh.”, “That felt disrespectful.”:, or “That hurt.” I want to learn to not argue with you about whether you experienced me as disrespectful. I will try to see what’s true about it. Even, if just that you felt it.

___ I become fearful and don’t talk about it with you. I end up showing that I am angry, hurt or I withdraw from you. I can see how that would be confusing and frustrating. It makes sense for you to feel unnecessarily blamed when I later reveal that it’s really something else that has me upset. I want to get better at talking with you about what I’m anxious about.

___ Sometimes, I get harsh with you with my words, my tone of voice or with the look on my face. I can understand how you might wonder if I want to be in this relationship with you. Maybe the same day or the next day, I may try to convince you that I love you. I know how hard it might be for you to believe that I care about you after talk to you, or treat you, as if I am disgusted with you, or hate you. I am very sorry for how my ‘out of control’ behavior has damaged our relationship and cut into your trust that I want to be in this relationship with you. I can only say I am now trying to learn how to be in control of my feelings. In ‘My Book Of Rules’ about the self imposed limits of my own behavior, it is no longer acceptable for me to act that way with you. I hope to make good progress toward that goal quickly.

___ I can be insensitive to your feelings sometimes, and I’ve rarely admitted that I’m aware of how hurtful that can be for you. I want to see myself being more sensitive to how things affect you. I want to see myself being able to listen to you and I want to be able to accept it if you tell me that I have been insensitive to you.

___ Sometimes I know I can be selfish or insensitive and I rarely admit that I’m aware of how hurtful that can be for you. In the past, when you try to talk about feeling left I don’t take you seriously. I want to make it safe for you to talk to me about this when I act that way. In the future I want to see myself making it O.K. for you to say to me, “That was insensitive.” I’m going to try to take your feelings of being hurt more seriously. The way I will try to do that is to not argue with you when you talk about feeling hurt, scared or frustrated with me.

___ I have been dishonest with you in the past. I can understand how hard it is for you to trust what I say to you. I need to face this problem of being deceptive. I hope you can eventually forgive me. I’m aware that I need to demonstrate that I have changed before you can trust me more fully again.

___ Another type of deception is not talking about how I feel. I know I withdraw emotionally from you. Even though I have my reasons, I do know that frustrates and hurts you. It also encourages you to pursue me more strongly. I may be hurt, disappointed or angry and I often do not tell you how I feel as I feel it. That makes you feel confused and unconnected to me. I want to improve generally in my willingness to communicate more about what’s going on in my life, particularly how I’m feeling. I want to get better at not withdrawing from you.

___ Sometimes I say I’m going to do something and I end up not doing it. I’ve said I would change something about my behavior and I didn’t follow through with what I said. I can understand how you might come to distrust my promises to change and feel resentful. It’s O.K. if you still feel distrustful now. In the future I’m going to work harder to do what I say and to say what I mean.

___ Sometimes I tell you that you don’t love me or that I know that you intend to hurt me. Or, I insist that I know what you think or feel, despite what you say you think or feel. I know that is a violation of your personal boundaries. It must be frustrating to talk with me, when I insist that I know what you think or feel better than you do. I’m sorry and hope to learn how to simply express how your behavior affects me rather than to violate you by mind reading.

___ Sometimes I say or do something very hurtful to you and then later try to take it back, or say that I love you. I recognize that it must be hard to believe that I love you if it’s O.K. with me to say or do such bad things to you. I’m sorry that I’ve not had good limits on my behavior. From now on I am committing myself to a standard of my own behavior that will never justify going so far over the line of respectful behavior. When both of you are finished turn to your partner and read it, or say it in your own words. Take turns saying what you’ve checked for yourself. One partner reads from the first to the last checked item. The other reads their checked items from the last one backwards to their first one checked. Try to make eye contact while speaking. In the next chapter, you will see that each of the statements above is a ‘First Pants & Socks’ statement.

After this exercise, talk with your partner about your experience of doing it.

Did you notice any thoughts, feelings or body sensations?

What did it make you think about yourself as you were speaking in this exercise?

What did it make you think of your partner as you listened to him speaking?

Can you see yourself using insights from this exercise that shifts the way you could experience your partner?

Talk with each other about what you may have learned about yourself in this exercise.

You may notice that each of these statements is a ‘First Pants’ statement. Learn more about ‘First Pants’ statements by purchasing the seminar manual, the .pdf file of the workbook, or the podcasts downloadable RIGHT NOW for you to begin to change as a couple!

ptdwnbinocsBWAre you ready to put down the
binoculars and pick up a mirror?


Read this fantastic POEM about what happens as you take more responsibility for the problems in your life. Most people intuitively believe that avoiding responsibility for problems is the best path to take. The POEM and my course show you how EMPOWERING it is to sweep your side of the street by first addressing how you can see how you have contributed to the very problem you would like the other to address.

Deciding ‘Should I Stay, or Should I leave’

There are a few reasons that your relationship will not improve significantly at this time. These are primary problems that are so influential that they are an obstacle that must be cleared before work on the relationship can be considered. Our agreements are a good way to determine if you can REASONABLY expect the relationship to change. These simple agreements will help you ‘make up… or break up.’ For instance, If a partner will not stop when you feel intimidated or disrespected then you can expect the same to continue. Of course, your commitment is to do the same.


  • An ongoing affair whether it is known or secret.
  • Psychological or medical disorders that are not treated. These include: depression, manic depression, attention deficit disorder, PMS or menopause disorders, post traumatic stress and anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive or post-traumatic stress disorder. Post traumatic Stress is often a result of abusive, neglectful or violent experiences in childhood. These can experiences can profoundly affect how someone later processes issues of trust and conflict in current relationships. If symptoms from any of these illnesses are present and the person is unwilling to get treatment for it then there is a much reduced prospect for significant change in the relationship. First things first.
  • Someone is frequently dishonest and that person is unwilling to identify that behavior as an individual problem that he or she wants to work on.
  • One partner uses physical violence or emotional intimidation and is unwilling to say that this is an individual problem that s/he wants to work on separately from the relationship.
  • Having made the commitments from the Coming Together for Life workbook, and even though there is a fair effort made; the frequency and magnitude of the continuing offenses are severe enough that the other partner does not feel safe enough to continue within the relationship. We emphasize ‘progress, not perfection’ so the issue isn’t that slips or mistakes are made. The important thing is does the person eventually recognize his or her responsibility in the conflict and can the person show some concern for how that affects you. Or, if one person is unable to reasonably follow the guidelines and is not willing to seek further help.
  • What do I mean when I say “an individual problem that he or   she is willing to work on separate from the relationship?” Or what is meant by getting ‘further help’? A person can work on the issues they struggle with alone by reading books on the subject of violence or lying but few people are able to do this without the help of others. Using the help of others could mean going to a professional therapist who specializes in the area that needs work or it can mean going to a self -help group for that particular problem. If physical violence is the problem then my recommendation is to attend a professionally led anger management or domestic violence group. Having worked for 23 years in these groups I can say that the men are pleasantly surprised that they can learn useful methods that benefit their relationships. For most of the men it is the first time that they are exposed to the principle that being vulnerable will not result in being hurt.

*One partner refuses to ever consider forgiving the other for some past wrong committed by the other, even when that partner has humbly asked for forgiveness.

*Alcohol or drug dependence or abuse (prescribed medicines too!) Other addictions such as food, sex, spending, gambling or work are huge impediments to progress in a relationship which are sometimes overlooked or simply denied.

Why Does My Partner Think That

Read this fantastic POEM about what happens as you take more responsibility for the problems in your life. Most people intuitively believe that avoiding responsibility for problems is the best path to take. The POEM and my course show you how EMPOWERING it is to sweep your side of the street by first addressing how you can see how you have contributed to the very problem you would like the other to address.

The workbook is a great tool to benchmark progress in changing your relationhip. If there is physical violence in your relationship you really should get some outside help. You may use the principles in the manual to progress as a couple, but if one person becomes violent, even once, then it is that person’s responsibility to get professional help for his or her problem of violence. You can use the agreements of the manual in a way (agreement #5) that has the person commiting to get professional help if the behavior can’t be controlled. If a partner cannot reasonably execute the Time Out agreement, which states, that I will let you out of the room if you say you’re taking a ‘Time Out’; then that partner needs professional help to get control. It’s very helpful to get the input of professionals, such as those listed in red below.

* Leaving a psychologically violent or abusive relationship.  If you feel scared that you will be hurt, pursued or injured if you leave then trust your feelings and seek help from a women’s shelter or hotline before taking action.  Talk with them and consider the advice or recommendations that is given to you.  The most dangerous time, physically, for the abused wife (or husband) is at the time of separating and leaving the house.  Especially if you feel extremely fearful about leaving it is very important you speak with a professional who is experienced with domestic violence.  A safety plan can be developed over the phone, or at a professional’s office.

If you are physically abused by your partner call 1 800 978-3600 or 1 800 799-SAFE (7233) to talk to a domestic violence counselor to learn about resources in your area.  You are not alone!  If violence is occuring in your home then break the isolation. And for the person whose anger is out of control, please seek the competent help of anger management specialists.  Why wait for a neighbor’s phone call to initiate your criminal record?  Do something courageous and positive NOW! Seek the help of professionals who can help you. Stop saying “I’m sorry.” and take some real steps toward repeating what probably happened in the family you grew up in.

If you have done these things then you can leave knowing that you did everything you could before deciding for sure to leave. These do not apply if there is violence, addiction, continuing adultery or unrepentent lying in the relationship. If you, or your partner, are doing any of these behaviors and are unwilling to seek help individually; then it is probably Toxic Hope to believe that the relationship will change for the better.
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Three Exercises To You Decide If Hoping Your Relationship Can Change Is Real Hope Or Toxic Hope

Write out the answers to these questions- 

#1.  Take a look at the last six months of this relationship.   Fantasize that the next year will be an exact repeat of the last year.   The good and bad parts of the relationship. Eliminate the hope that things will change significantly.  You don’t change and the other doesn’t change.   The second year after that will be the same, and so on for 20 years. Is that life acceptable to you; the good with the bad?   If yes, then make a decision and a commitment to stay and improve the relationship.   If you cannot accept the future that you imagine, then it may be time to make plans to leave.

#2.  Ask three people, whom you know love you, to give their opinion about how they feel watching you in this relationship. You must give them amnesty for their opinion.  This means that you will not use what they say in any critical way with them later.
People who I know love me that I could ask include:

For those of you with a religious faith, ask what God would have you do.  Remember that there is a balancing of God’s love for you and your children, and any covenants that were made.   By this, I mean that you should give as much weight to God’s love for you as you would to His rules and commandments.

#3.  Think of someone you love.   Imagine this person is in exactly the same relationship you are in.   Think of the good and the bad things about your relationship.   What advice would you have for this person?

The person I’m thinking about is ________________________________________________.

If __________________________ were in the same relationship I’m in I would advise him or her to

Lastly, ask yourself in what specific verbal and non-verbal ways has your partner demonstrated to you that he or she knows that he or she needs to change some things and is willing to take some action.   Be the change that you are looking for in the other.   Whatever you may want to hear from your partner, you might want to make sure you are already doing also 🙂

Listening Exhange Cards helps you take turns!   The agreement makes sure that both partners are fully heard.

LE-ListenSm LE-SpeakerSm

These two cards are used by couples to make sure that each person has time to speak and have their thoughts and feelings reflected back. There is a Listener card and a Speaker card. This helps the couple know who has the floor and is allowed to voice their thoughts and feelings. It’s the most basic marriage and relationship communication skill taught by any relationship therapist.  You are invited to print out the cards from this page.

Change begins with a decision!