For Partners, Family, & Friends
We’ve been asked, “How do I talk to my partner, brother or sister, or friend about this issue? His or her behavior is hurting me and/or others. If you are in this position, we’ll try to provide some guidelines and suggestions. Remember, the message that your partner’s behavior is unacceptable is a really hard thing for your partner to hear, even if it is true. There are several things to consider before you begin the conversation:
- If you have already been on the receiving end of physical violence, or you worry that you could be, think about your safety first. If you suspect in any way that your partner will retaliate (immediately or later) and you could be physically harmed as a result of the discussion, we urge you not to bring this resource up with them directly and to give your personal safety the greatest priority. Consider asking someone he or she trusts, like a family member or friend, who is not at risk of physical retribution to discuss this resource with him instead.
- Consider talking to your partner in a public place where others won’t necessarily hear you but will see and possibly intervene if he or she becomes upset and reacts physically.
- Your effectiveness in the discussion will depend on how open they are to the message. Of course, using a caring and diplomatic approach is much more likely to yield good results.
- You are not responsible for your partner’s behavior changing. All you can do is plant the seeds and provide good information.
After you’ve made the necessary arrangements to ensure your safety and feel comfortable moving forward with the discussion, we have a few tips to help the conversation go better for you both:
- If you are a third party (not the one causing harm or being harmed), only have this conversation if the person being harmed is fully aware of what you are doing and has given you permission.
- Start by seeing your partner as a valuable human being. If you can’t see them that way, then you are not the right person to talk to them.
- Let him or her know you care about them, their well-being, and their long-term happiness, including having a successful relationship.
- Tell your partner that your concern for him or her is that they are hurting you (or their partner), your desire to stay in the relationships, and therefore hurting himself or herself.
- Warn your partner what the consequences will be if the behavior happens again–calling the police, leaving, etc. Be willing, ready, and able to follow through on whatever you say. This message is likely to feel really threatening to your partner.
- Focus on what he or she has done, not on who they are. Our worst actions don’t define us.
- Ask your partner how they feel about what’s happened. You’ll get a good idea if they feel remorse (open to change) or is defensive.
- Tell your partner many individuals who have found themselves in this situation discovered there were some unhealed wounds causing their reactions. When they healed the wounds, their self-control improved significantly.
- Remind them that they were created for a better life than what they are experiencing now.
- Tell them about our website: www.ananiasfoundation.org
- If you are a third party (not the one causing harm or being harmed), do not have this conversation if the person being harmed is not aware of what you are doing or has not given you permission.
- Use force or threaten violence. Violence does not stop violence.
- Scold or shame that person for what he or she has done. Shame is a poor motivator for change.
- Tell them they need to make different/better decisions. Reactions don’t use the part of the brain that makes decisions.
- Tell them they are doing this because they think they are entitled or superior. Unless they have said it explicitly, you don’t know what they think or how they feel.
- Tell them they are hopeless. No one is hopeless.