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4 Steps to Create Positive Change in Your Relationship

Few people embrace change. In fact, most people resist change because it is not a comfortable or easy process. Dr. Hawkins talks about the 4 steps to create positive change in your relationship.

Creating positive change in your relationship, especially when it involves recovering from patterns of narcissistic and emotional abuse, is undoubtedly difficult and painful. However, following the four-step process of discovering, uncovering, owning, and recovering, can lead to real and lasting transformation.

4 Steps to Create Positive Change in Your Relationship

Change can be incredibly difficult, especially when it involves recovering from patterns of narcissistic and emotional abuse. Dr. David Hawkins, the director of the Marriage Recovery Center, specializes in the treatment of narcissism and emotional abuse. In this article, we will explore a four-step process for creating positive change in your relationship. Dr. Hawkins’ insights will guide us through the stages of discovering, uncovering, owning, and recovering, which are essential for real, lasting transformation.

Step 1: Discovering the Problem

The first crucial step in creating positive change in a relationship is discovering the problem. Just as a medical doctor accurately diagnoses an ailment, you must identify the issues that are harming your relationship. This involves acknowledging the presence of narcissistic and emotionally abusive patterns. Recognizing the problem is the first and most essential step towards improvement.

Narcissistic and emotionally abusive behaviors can be subtle and insidious, making them challenging to identify. They may manifest as controlling tendencies, manipulation, constant criticism, or emotional neglect. Often, the victims of such behavior may not even realize the extent of the damage caused. Therefore, it is vital to engage in self-reflection and self-awareness to pinpoint these harmful patterns.

Step 2: Uncovering Thinking Errors

Once you have discovered the problem, the next step is uncovering the thinking errors associated with these behaviors. Why do individuals engage in actions that are detrimental to their relationships? The answer lies in the powerful defense mechanism known as denial. Denial prevents them from acknowledging the harm they cause and protects them from facing their flaws.

Common thinking errors related to denial include minimization, rationalization, justification, blame shifting, excuse making, all-or-nothing thinking, and playing the victim. These thought patterns serve as barriers to change, keeping individuals in a state of self-deception. By uncovering and understanding these thinking errors, it becomes possible to confront and challenge them effectively.

Professional guidance is often necessary in this stage. A qualified therapist can help individuals identify and address these thinking errors, providing them with the tools and insights needed for transformation.

Step 3: Owning Your Actions

Owning one’s actions and acknowledging the hurtful and abusive behaviors is the pivotal third step in the process of change. It involves taking full responsibility for one’s actions and their impact on the relationship. This step is often a long and challenging therapeutic process that may require individual and group therapy.

Owning involves a deep, honest self-assessment, where individuals confront the harsh truth about their behavior. This may include recognizing that they have been emotionally abusive, selfish, self-centered, and harmful to their partner. Owning also requires specifying the patterns of hurtful behavior to understand how they have caused damage. Naming the patterns is a critical component of this step.

For many, owning their actions can be a humbling and painful experience. However, it is a crucial aspect of the healing process and is essential for lasting change.

Step 4: Recovering and Transforming

The final step in creating positive change in a relationship is the process of recovery and transformation. Recovery involves not just addressing the external behaviors but also a deep transformation of the soul, heart, and personhood. It is a profound shift in the way individuals relate to themselves and their partners.

Recovery is a challenging and lengthy process that requires dedication, support, and professional guidance. Individual and group therapy, as well as confrontation and accountability, are vital elements in this stage. Recovery entails developing healthier behaviors, fostering empathy and emotional intelligence, and building a more compassionate and loving self.

It’s essential to remember that true recovery is not just about modifying external actions but also about experiencing internal change. It involves letting go of toxic patterns and embracing healthier ways of relating to your partner and to yourself.


It’s important to recognize that anything short of this comprehensive process is likely to result in discouragement and frustration. True change requires self-awareness, professional support, and a commitment to healing the wounds caused by abusive behaviors. By following these steps, you can embark on a journey towards a healthier and more fulfilling relationship. Remember, change is possible, but it begins with self-discovery and a willingness to confront your own shortcomings.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: What Should you do When Forgiveness is Demanded?

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.



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