1. Work for win-win solutions. Shame-based couples often look at all issues in terms of right and wrong, and to see all conflicts as ending with a winner and a loser. That approach works for boxing matches, not couples. Search for solutions that make each partner a winner. Seldom is there just one way to do things. Two different views can both be right. Focusing on strengths increases personal growth.
2. Use the Twelve Steps. Stop the fight and share with each other what step you need to use in connection with this problem. If you are involved with recovery from co-dependence or other issues, connect to the principles, communicate about your experience.
3. Agree on times to work on problems. Difficult conversations when you are tired and depleted is counter-productive. Agree that it is all right to talk about the program at another time that’s acceptable to you both. This tip improves communication. Have a rule about times of the day when intense issues need to be tabled.
4. Avoid dramatic exits. Threatening abandonment is great drama, but also destructive to those whose history is filled with it. Remember, shame is about abandonment. If you need a time-out, ask for it. Do not create more painful memories. Seek personal growth;
5. Focus on the issues, not on history. Shame-based couples do not resolve things because they keep escalating the conflict by adding in other unresolved problems. Cut down on the backlog by concentrating on the current disagreement. Memory serves us so we can learn from our past experiences. Memory is not to be used as fuel to incur more harm.
6. Avoid cheap shots. Partners know each others vulnerabilities. Problem-solving is an act of trust and an invitation to intimacy. Do not sabotage it with demeaning, disrespectful, or exploitative comments. Support, do not injure, when your partner admits an error instead show respect and improve communication.
7. Accept issues and feelings of others. They are realities for the other person, even if they seem strange or unreal to you. Validating your partner’s experiences will add dramatically to your ability to solve things together. You can VALIDATE a feeling you do not understand, you can ACCEPT a view you do not agree with.
8. When stuck, consult with others. Therapists, trusted friends, Pastors, Premarital counseling, sponsors, other couples – all can be resources. If, as a couple, you have no one to talk to, you do not have the resources you need. This promotes personal growth. Find support for your relationship.