By Christine Murray, Healthy Relationships Initiative Director

When chaos erupts in our relationships, we often have little control over the things happening around us, such as the choices another person is making, how quickly things can change, and external circumstances that are outside of our control.

Although we may not have any ability to control these things, what we can manage is our responses to the challenges we face. A good question to ask yourself in the midst of a chaotic relationship situation is, “What can I do to take care of myself in this situation?”

For example, you may not be able to change how the other person is treating you, but you can make a choice about how you will respond. When you’re faced with a relationship situation that feels out of control, consider the following questions to help process your emotions and needs, as well as to help identify potential steps you can take toward creating positive movement in the situation:

How safe do I feel, both physically and emotionally? (Note: If you feel unsafe in your relationship, in any way, take steps to protect your safety. If you are facing abuse of any kind, reach out for help, such as by calling the Guilford County Family Justice Center at (336) 641-SAFE (7233)or the Family Service of the Piedmont Crisis Line (Greensboro: 336-273-7273; High Point: 336-889-7273).

  • What am I feeling right now? What incidents or experiences led to these feelings?
  • What are my greatest fears about what could happen in this situation?
  • What expectations have I been holding that weren’t met in this relationship? Did the other person know I had this expectation?
  • What do I need and/or want from the other person that I haven’t been getting? How can I ask for this in a way that the other person will be most likely to listen to my concerns?
  • How well am I coping with the stress I’m feeling? What could I do to better manage my stress (e.g., write in a journal, exercise, practice relaxation techniques, or talk with a trusted friend)?
  • What can I do to feel at peace (this week, today, the next hour, the next five minutes)?
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