If you are separated from your partner and thinking about reuniting, here are some things to consider:
- Make sure you are ready. Ask yourself: Has there been an extended time period without incident? Have the two of you spent a significant amount of time together? Have you encountered stressful situations? How did those situations go? Are you able to calm yourself down? Do you think rationally? Have you argued without battering or slipping into other threatening, dangerous, or abusive behaviors? Almost every couple argues, so an argument is not a big deal. How it progresses and where it ends up is a big deal. If you are successful in concluding arguments before they reach the rage stage, and you can do this consistently, then you are beginning to build your partner’s trust and confidence in your new habits. If not, you probably need more time. Give honest answers to these questions and don’t rush the process. The cost of being wrong is too high. It may be the last straw for her, or you may end up back in jail, this time with a stiffer penalty as a repeat offender.
- Try to envision as many stressful scenarios as possible. How will you handle them? How can you ensure you’re seeing the information clearly, so it doesn’t get your goat? Practicing constructive responses ahead of time increases the likelihood of implementing them in the heat of the moment. The Simulator 2 exercise can give you practice.
- Use conflicts and situations where you became emotionally charged as practice. Good post-argument processing has the power to change the outcome the next time a similar incident comes up. Journaling is a great way to process these events after they happen.
- Expect that this is going to be a difficult process. Both of you will be on edge. She’ll be watching you closely, looking for any danger signs. Her heightened vigilance is probably going to feel extra critical, and perhaps even unfair at times. Be prepared for her to call you out on your smaller emotional reactions. Accept it as part of the dues you need to pay to regain her trust.
- Get help. If you can afford it, seek an experienced counselor who can guide you and your partner (maybe separately) through this difficult adjustment period. If possible, seek other couples that have reconciled successfully and listen closely to their advice and experiences. These couples can help you keep your expectations realistic.
- Have an escape plan. If you are back together but the road is becoming increasingly rocky, what will you do? Think about the “Are you sure you are ready” questions again – would you answer them differently now than when you were still apart? Make sure there’s a way for you to separate again to relieve the pressure rather than letting it build.
- Check in with your partner frequently. How is she feeling about being back together? Are there things you do that still upset or scare her? Listen closely and accept criticism as useful, constructive feedback. If she tells you something is bothering her, acknowledge her point of view and assume it is true and real rather than getting defensive or dismissing it.
- Forgive her for leaving you, having you arrested, forcing you to go to counseling, etc. She probably did the best she could to try to save your relationship.
- Don’t try to convince your partner or anyone else that you are healed. Don’t expect anyone to certify you as safe. Rather, let your actions speak for you.
- If it feels safe for you to do so, consider sharing what techniques you are using to prevent yourself from getting violent when you feel anxious, frustrated or angry.
- Accept the reality that, even if you do great work and make wonderful strides to becoming a safe and worthwhile partner, your relationship may not survive. Understand too that you may not want your relationship to survive. The new you may come to understand that your partner’s issues are causing her to behave in abusive ways as well. If she is unwilling or unable to change, your best bet is to move on. If the relationship ends, you will have some great tools to help make the next relationship successful, emotionally healthy, and violence-free.
- Give the God Factor some real consideration.