Three Exercises To Help You Decide If Hoping Your 

Relationship Can Change Is RealHope Or Toxic Hope

These exercises come from the RealHope For Real Couples Course manual.

#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.  Include the good and the 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 accept what you have; stay and improve the relationship.  

If you cannot accept the future that you imagine, then it may be time to make plans to talk to your partner.  You would be talking to him or her about how serious your feelings are; and that you are considering an ending.  Often, people find the willingness to really work on a relationship, only at the first real sign that the partner is leaving.

#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 kind, loving God, or a loving spirit, would have you do.  Remember 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 the same thing also :)

What If I Want To Give The Relationship One Last Chance?
There are many, many books, seminars and techniques for helping couples handle conflict.  Most of them seem to be designed for couples wanting to improve their relationship and who are both willing to engage each other.  My experience with hundreds of couples and my own relationships have informed me that many times both partners are not equal in their belief that something is wrong.  In most of the couples I’ve seen either one or both partners had great difficulty seeing what part they play in the very problem that they were complaining about. 

For example, a man may feel that his wife is ‘nagging and criticizing’ him too often.   Many of these same men have difficulty seeing how their own minimizing, denying, defensive, justifying and avoidance behaviors are the MAIN drivers of their partners’ continuing criticism.  In other words, if these men would sincerely address their partners’ concerns and make even a little progress in that effort, they may be astounded by how much less they feel nagged and criticized.

And, a woman may feel desperate and hopeless about how unresponsive her partner is towards her feelings and needs.  But, she may be unaware of how profoundly stimulating her irritated tone of voice is to her mate.  That tone of voice may be understandable, given how often the respectful requests for attention and caring have been denied or chided.  Still her tone of voice can be seen in part, as exactly the reason her partner cannot hear and respond respectfully to her needs and feelings.

The downloadable (begin link to- ) ‘Real Hope For Real Couples’ home study course is a 10 week do it yourself at home program.  The course asks you to put in two hours a week doing exercises, making five agreements and talking with each other in structured ways that avoid high conflict.  By the end of the 10 weeks one or both of you will have the answer to whether it’s RealHope or Toxic Hope, for you to remain in the relationship.

When there is physical abuse and violence the perpetrator is SOLELY responsible for their violations.  In rare cases, both partners cannot control their physically violent behavior.  I repeat, this is rare and can is best be assessed by a professional who is expert in domestic violence. 

Anger Management skills can be helpful for people ranging from the mildly miffed to the violently vengeful.  You do not need to be in a physically violent relationship to benefit from understanding and learning about communicating angry and hurt feelings constructively.   

Lastly, if you are scared of your partner’s angry or violent behavior then reach out to your local shelter, to me, or call the National Hotline at 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233) You can read about abuse at their website -

Author's Bio: 

Leading anger management and domestic violence groups in Los Angeles for 26 years. I've written a couples communication skills for couples who want to stop arguing called, 'RealHope Conflict Skills For Couples.' The manual is used in the monthly Los Angeles couples seminar that I've run for 17 years. I've trained FBI agents in Listening Skills and have led dozens of workshops on anger, substance abuse and communication skills for agencies, churches and synagogues.