Want a way to prepare yourself to handle any situation you might encounter, without resorting to violence or even losing your cool? Here’s another simulator process, like the one we discussed Step 4. This time, however, you will be anticipating possible situations that might cause your emotional control to fail rather than rewriting endings to conflicts that already happened.
Imagine your partner saying or doing each of the following things. Add to the list anything he or she has said or done in the past that triggered you. Picture each situation vividly. Feel the hurt of her words or actions. Notice your body reacting to this imagined trigger. Now imagine yourself responding to each in a cool, collected and constructive way – one that does not involve violence or damage the relationship any further.
The emotions you feel in real life are much stronger than what you can create with your imagination. However, this exercise will still help you develop more self-control when you need it. Over time and with practice, you’ll notice that words or situations lose some of their sting and do not create the same physical response. This is a great indicator that you are making progress toward becoming less reactionary and more responsive.
What if your partner says:
- You’re abusive
- You’re an asshole
- You’re lousy in bed
- You’re a rotten husband or wife
- You’re a pathetic father or mother
- You’re a failure
- You’re self-centered
- You’re controlling
- You’re lazy
- You’re not working hard enough on your issues
- You’re a cheater
- You’re a liar
- You’re mean
- You’re disgusting
- You’re stupid
- You’re a loser
- Your children are worthless or _________.
- Your mother is an idiot or _________.
- I don’t love you anymore
- I’m leaving
- I want a divorce
- I’m having an affair
- I’m in love with another man/woman
Be ready for anything. Start with a list of statements that were emotional triggers for you in the past. Then, expanded your list to the worst, most hurtful things someone might say to you.
Physical attacks or tough situations
What if your partner:
- Walks away
- Refuses to talk
- Locks you out
- Continues to yell at you after you call time out
- Violates your personal space
- Destroys your property
- Destroys something that has sentimental value to you
- Throws something at you
- Rushes at you
- Hits you
- Comes at you with a scissors, baseball bat, hot curling iron, or knife
- Attempts to run you down with a car
- Embarrasses you in front of friends, family, or co-workers
- Comes home very late without telling you why
- Lies to you
- Flirts with another man or woman
- Is in bed with another man or woman
- Takes your money, even a significant amount of it, and spends it without your consent
- Comes home drunk
- Starts abusing prescription or illegal drugs
- Gambles more than you can afford to lose
If you are put in physical danger, imagine how you would defend yourself in order to stay safe without retaliating. If the situation is upsetting but does not put you in danger, imagine what steps you’d take – such as calling time out and going for a walk – to regain your composure and address the issue in a constructive way.
A note here. We’re not suggesting that these situations won’t hurt deeply. They will. Your job is to the real emotion (hurt, fear, sadness) and respond to your partner in a constructive way from that emotion rather than reacting with anger. Responses from the real, underlying emotion are much more likely than angry reactions to be effective and appropriate, and to keep you out of trouble and your partner safe.
We also do not want to imply that it is okay for anyone to say or do any of these things to their partner. It’s not. But the appropriate thing to do is to respond these situations in a controlled, safe, and constructive way. Angry, rageful reactions will make the situation worse. It puts the focus on your bad reaction rather than the complaint you are trying to voice.