The couples that come to us for help have often landed in a random, dysfunctional, unhealthy place. Frequently, one of them believes the best hope for change is an intervention. They’re at their wits’ end, having repeated a million times in ineffective ways what they are unhappy about. But they’re also not yet ready to walk away from the relationship.
If only their spouse could be awakened to the harm and pain and dysfunction! That’s the desperate plea behind the desire to do an intervention. And it’s true that an intervention can be effective in bringing such an awakening. It’s also true that it’s only as effective as the planning and follow-through. In other words, it holds no weight if there isn’t a clear confrontation and an actionable plan to be put into motion immediately following the intervention.
“You must determine where you are going in your life, because you cannot get there unless you move in that direction. Random wandering will not move you forward. It will instead disappoint and frustrate you and make you anxious and unhappy and hard to get along with (and then resentful, and then vengeful, and then worse).”
― Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
Steps to an Intervention
If you’ve been wondering if an intervention might be the next step for you, these are the important basics to consider beforehand:
- Identify and clarify your non-negotiables. These are the things you believe must change in order for you to stay engaged in the relationship. What needs to happen? What level of change (i.e. how much?) Exactly, specifically what is it that you are no longer willing to tolerate in your life?
- Have a clear plan. Take the time to think about where YOU are heading. What are you putting into place in order to intentionally change the trajectory of your life and the state of your health (emotional and otherwise)? What are you asking of your spouse?
- What are the outcome options? Determine the possible alternative paths, one of which you will take depending upon your spouse’s response to the intervention. What will happen if he or she agrees to the work that needs to be done to salvage the relationship? What will happen if he or she rejects the invitation to change? Be ready to put either plan into motion.
- Involve witnesses. This is a safety feature, as well as accountability. Think about who you could have present to provide a witness to the interaction, lend safety to the situation, and possibly influence the outcome. Whose presence could help bolster your confidence in saying what needed to be said and following through?
- Have a safety plan in place. Be ready (and give yourself permission) to disengage and get to safety if necessary. This could mean preparing your witnesses to step in, if willing and able. It might mean having a bag packed in the car and the car keys in your pocket. It might mean having the police on speed dial.
- Have a professional trained in navigating emotional abuse help you plan the intervention and navigate the ensuing process. If your spouse is used to using fear and intimidation to keep doing what they’ve always done, you can expect him or her to respond with those same tactics. Having someone trained to recognize the impact of powering-over within relationships can be a huge source of encouragement and direction for you. They can provide on-going assistance to stay focused, grounded, and intentional in your growth and, hopefully, reconnection.
Mean What You Say
When it comes to an intervention, it is imperative that you say what you mean and mean what you say. This is an ultimatum! You are drawing a line in the sand and taking responsibility for your own part in becoming healthy. As much as we hope the intervention will awaken them to take the same responsibility in a positive, growth-oriented direction, you will need to be prepared to follow through if they do not. Otherwise, all this effort will boil down to simply another fight that ended nowhere.
We would love to help you avoid that! We’ve created an Intervention Planning Intensive to specifically help you walk through the steps listed above. If you’d like more information about this, or want to get signed up, please contact our Client Care Team here or call (206) 219-0145.