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Question:

I don’t want to hurt my partner again. I love them and I know I have really harmed them. It makes me feel sick when I see what I have done. What do I do if I get in that place where I feel like I am going to hurt them again? How can I stop myself?

Answer:

We are so glad you reached out. You want to stop yourself from hurting your partner and you need to know how.

The end goal is for you get to a place where you are a completely safe partner, where no matter what you feel or think about what is going on in any exchange with your partner, that lashing out verbally or physically is just not an option for you. 

To become a safe partner, you’ll need to take a deep look at the things you believe, the values, that have allowed you to choose to hurt your partner, and then you need to make a commitment to change these beliefs and values.

Ask yourself these things:

  • “Do I believe that what I want is more important than what my partner wants—that I should just get my way because what I want is more important?”
  • “Do I put myself above my partner because I think that is the way it is supposed to be for me in relationships?”
  •  “If I don’t get my way or I am upset, does any part of me believe I get to retaliate, scare or hurt my partner?”

If you want to be a partner who is always safe, you can’t believe these things.  The reason is, even though you feel sickened when you see what you have done to your partner, you are still likely to hurt or scare them again if you have beliefs.

People who are safe in relationship believe these things: Values of Equity and Respect. They work out their relationships from a place of safety when they stand on these values.

It takes some time to really hold onto new values. As you work on examining and changing your beliefs, you can also make a plan to reduce your immediate risk of harming your partner.

Start by trying to notice thoughts that lead to your harmful behavior. For example, notice if you are telling yourself ‘They deserve it.’ or ‘Why do they do this to me?’ 

If you notice these thoughts—start disagreeing with yourself! You don’t have to agree with these thoughts and you do not have to act on them.  See your harmful thoughts, and put a little room between them and you. Try on a new thought based on the values you want to have.  For example, you can tell yourself ‘Even if I do not like how I am feeling, I will be safe.’ or ‘I am responsible for whatever choices I make.’ Or ‘No matter what, everyone deserves to be safe.”

You can take yourself in hand. You really can. In fact, no one else is going to do it for you and we are here to support you as you do it. If you find yourself in the habit of your old thoughts based on abusive values, try these things:

  1. CALL US: 1-877-898-3411
  2.  Take a deep breath and BE accountable. Say out loud, ‘We can pick this up later –and I need to get my head right. I need a minute’ and then move yourself from the immediate situation. If you are able to go outside do so. If not – go to another room. You are not alone. Call us from there.
  3. Tell yourself repeatedly – I don’t want to harm my partner – physically, verbally or in any way – even with my body language.
  4.  Tell yourself – I can be safe in this moment. I can do this.  Use any safe strategy that does not break the trust to shake yourself out of the old patterns– If it helps to distract yourself in some way i.e. music, tv, walking, water on the face or head to change your nervous system. Feel your body, notice what you hear, notice what you see. If you can touch the natural world—wind, water, woods. Ask yourself this question: Am I willing to see this differently? What can I see differently—and wait, noticing yourself shift.
  5.  Tell yourself this moment will pass. It might be 5 minutes, or it might be 2 days. You’ve convinced yourself for a long time that it is okay to hurt others when you don’t like how you feel; you are going to need some time to get used to changing your mind—but in the meantime, do no harm NOW.
  6. Tell yourself, I can shift how I think/what I believe/what I do again. I can live these new values; I can choose other thoughts and beliefs. I can do this. I can be a safe partner.
  7.  After the sense of urgency has passed, ask yourself – what do I want to learn from this? How can I see things differently? You won’t always get an answer right away. The answer will come in time. 

Most importantly, living by the values of equity and respect is hardest to do when you are not getting what you want and when your uncomfortable negative feelings are heightened.

So you need to practice what it means to live by equity and respect at breakfast, lunch and dinner. All during the days of your lives together, not just in the tensions.

You practice what it means to live in the reality that your partner is a person who is as important as you are and that you are answerable to one another in mutually supportive and safe accountable ways. You practice showing interest, humility and care all the time. That way, when you have the feelings you don’t like, it will be a little easier to stay connected to the new values you are strengthening.