THE FIVE AGREEMENTS – The RealHope Program consists of five agreements between you and your partner; and learning two skills. Are you in control of yourself, or not? If you make an agreement, and it turns out that you cannot keep your agreements then you must be out of your own control. If you still want to gain control over the behavior, professional help is probably needed. Here is a little of what’s in the summary of the RealHope Course Five Agreements:
1) Time Out: Either partner can stop a conflict and leave the room or house when arguments feel overwhelming. I will stop talking and let you leave the room when you say, “I need a Time Out, I’ll be back in an hour.”
2) Listening Exchange: To take turns listening to each other, reflecting what you hear. There is less conflict when we are clear who has the floor as a speaker.
3) Weekly Meeting Time: To spend weekly time together to speak safely about the relationship, or any other concerns.
4) Respect: Commit to allowing your partner to say when your tone of voice feels disrespectful, and to what you will do.
5) Integrity: What if I can’t do it? I will seek help if my behavior is out of my own control and my agreements are not reasonably kept.
The actual agreements in the Course are more detailed and are read by each partner to each other out loud.
These five agreements assure that there is a structure to move through conflicts. Someone who makes these agreements is interested in assuring that his, or her, partner feels safe to express their thoughts, feelings and needs without ill consequence. The commitment is made to oneself first. This is who I want to be. The agreement is made out loud with your partner, “I want to see myself acting differently in the future in the following way……” Whenever commitments are made to another as a promise to the other as in “I promise to you that I will be different in the future” it is at least a beginning. Many spouses would feel successful if at least this was said by their partner. On the other hand, many spouses are tired of hearing promises made and then forgotten, broken and rationalized. The main reason for making a commitment to oneself in the form described above is that it shows that it is important to YOU as a value. The success of this program depends upon how seriously each of you treats agreements that you make with your partner. Heeding the words of Martin Buber above, the question to ask yourself is “Do I really say what I mean and do as I say? A temptation for many people who find themselves not following their agreements is to blame the other person or other circumstances for their behavior. While these factors may be important, what matters to someone with is to own up to having broken their agreement first. Later he, or she, can explain or offer reasons!
The origin of all my conflict with others is that I do not say what I mean and I don’t do what I say. -Martin Buber
Couples make the Five Agreements out loud to each other. Now, the proof is in the tasting of the pudding. Either, I can control my impulses to say or do disrespectful things to my partner; or it becomes obvious that I cannot. That’s when agreement 5, the Integrity Agreement, comes in. “If I cannot reasonably execute my agreements then I want to see myself seeking further help.” Professional help such as psychotherapist, psychiatrist or anger management group.
The Two Skills central to the RealHope Program are:
1) How to respond to somebody who is angry, hurt or disappointed with you. This is a simple three step method.
2) How to express your thoughts, feelings and desires when you are angry or hurt. This is a five step method.
Both of the methods above are difficult to remember when you’re feeling threatened or angry yourself. When adrenaline flows people are not very interested in being responsible for their behavior, or empathic for their partner’s experience. But, with practice even in times of stress and high emotions, one can remember the two methods and most likely prevent more unnecessary arguing.
Some people might feel that this book does not work for them. These are people who have not tried to improve their own skills. They were only looking at the other person’s behavior and whether the other person has changed. The results to look for here are in whether YOU can become more responsible and empathic in your communication, and also whether you can demonstrate control over your behavior when it threatens or disturbs your partner.
“If change is to happen….Let it begin with me!” – Al-Anon slogan “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Ghandi Avoid the kind of ‘Abandoning Language’ and escalation of energy and agitation like the examples in this video-