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But I have such a Great Catch! Treating Abusive Controlling Relationships

Section 28
Unexamined Inner Rules
Reproducible Client Worksheet
The reproducible client information sheet found in this section provides a diagram concerning their relationship expectations

Question 28 |
Test | Table of Contents

Through our experiences, we absorb a number of inner rules - have-to’s can be quite powerful in influencing our choices. Fifty of these rules are listed here. You may have others add.

Notice if any of your rules are in conflict with each other, such as having to be in control of the your significant other, but also having to follow orders. For example, if you have the urge to break the rules to see what happens but also feel the need to keep peace at any price or to be liked, your inner conflicts may confused others by double meanings you are likely to send.

Also, consider what would happen if you have the same rules as other people. For example, if you and your significant other both have to “do it myself,” you’ll probably have trouble coordinating work efforts. On the other hand, if you both have to be “in the know,” you may tell each other a lot about what is going on, unless you both have a rule about coming out on top, or winning. Then you are more likely to tell the other only what doesn’t help him or her get ahead of you.

Some rules are helpful in one situation but not in another. “I have to be perfect” may be useful to the lab technician conducting sensitive tests but not at home taking care of an active three-year-old.

These fifty rules came from what many people have learned from male and female role expectations and the work ethic. Undoubtedly, the list could be expanded almost infinitely if we added the rules from other sources of our learnings. Every system has its rules - their shoulds and oughts and no-no’s. When system rules match your own inner rules, you are likely to do what others expect even when it’s not in your best interest. For example, if you and the system you’re in agree on the rule, “You have to not make waves,” you will probably voluntarily go along with what others say most of the time. Sometimes this won’t serve you self-interest if, let’s say, you’re asked to be patient about receiving a raise that everyone agrees you’ve already earned.

Generally speaking, the more rules you have, especially those you rated as a 2 or 3, the more likely you can be controlled by others and the more likely you’ll respond to matching norms and expectations in your organization. A few expectations to this statement are those inner rules that give you more power over yourself, such as, “I have to decide for myself, stick to my principles and ethics, and be in control of myself.” These are more likely to put you in conflict with traditional system norms.

This is not in your self-interest. If you don’t take care of your own interests, no one else is likely to. One way to gain more control over yourself is to occasionally review your inner rules to check their usefulness to you today.

Go through the list of inner rules again. Underline all the rules that you know you want to keep, even though they get in your way sometimes. These will be the rules that are part of your core values and your identity as the person you want to be. These you won’t want to change, and you consciously choose to live with the consequences of these rules for now. Then go through and circle the rules you would like to change, modify or make less strong, like changing from a 2 score to a 1. Cross out the ones you have that you’d like to get rid of if you could.

Even if you don’t know how you’re going to make these changes, you’re at least identifying what better results you’d like to get. This is like cleaning out a clothes closet, sorting out the items to take to the tailor, which to discard, which to start wearing again, and making room for new clothes that fit your current interests and activities. We’ll see some ways of how to revise old rules as we go along. Right now we’re bringing them to conscious awareness and review.

When we’re dealing with the complexities of communication, this kind of self assessment is one way to see how some of your beliefs, rules, attitudes,and experiences can filter your communications as well as your need for facades. The more rules you have and the more compulsive they are, the more you’ll need facades.

Filters of expectations and rules are fairly easy to identify. Once you become attuned to their themes, you may observe many subtle variations operating in yourself. More difficult to identify are the filters of underlying values that are often unconscious, so much a part of ourselves the we don’t think about them or observe them in action. Some values are rich in human concerns; other values have the effect of using or exploiting other people. Since we’re focusing on defensive communication, we’ll narrow our attention to values that tend to generate defensiveness in ourselves and others.

What are Your Inner Rules?
Score the intensity of these rules as they apply to you. 0=Never, 1=Sometimes, 2=Often, 3=Always (Note: S.O.= Significant Other)

__Be in control of myself
__Be a team player
__Be right
__Be loyal to my S.O.
__Justify myself to my S.O.
__Not make waves
__Have the answers
__Be persistent
__Break rules just because
__Decide for myself
__Keep peace at any price
__Make my S.O. look good
__Be the expert
__Be logical and rational
__Appear confident
__Be objective, unemotional
__Be successful in relationships
__Be responsible for others
__Do my best
__Take the initiative
__Do what my S.O. says
__That things are done right
__Be dependable
__Be a nice guy/girl
__Finish things I start
__Ask S.O for permission
__Make a track record
__Stay ahead
__Be perfect for my S.O.
__Improve, develop myself
__Conform to what’s expected
__Be “In the Know”
__Be on time
__Stay in this relationship
__Prove myself to my S.O.
__Be consistant
__Make myself visible to my S.O.
__Be liked and accepted
__Be in control of my S.O.
__Not question my S.O.

Total your score which will be between 0 and 100. Do you observe any patterns in the rules you scored? Do you have many rules scored 1 but not many 2’s? Or are most of your scores 2’s?

- Wells, T. (1980).Keeping Your Cool Under Fire: Communicating Non-Defensively. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company.

Relationship quality and mental health among
sexual and gender minorities

- Sarno, E. L., Dyar, C., Newcomb, M. E., & Whitton, S. W. (2022). Relationship quality and mental health among sexual and gender minorities. Journal of family psychology : JFP : journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43), 36(5), 770–779.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
O'Hara, K. L., Perkins, A. B., Tehee, M., & Beck, C. J. (2018). Measurement invariance across sexes in intimate partner abuse research. Psychology of Violence, 8(5), 560–569.

Poole, G. M., & Murphy, C. M. (2019). Fatherhood status as a predictor of intimate partner violence (IPV) treatment engagement. Psychology of Violence, 9(3), 340–349.

Willie, T. C., Powell, A., Callands, T., Sipsma, H., Peasant, C., Magriples, U., Alexander, K., & Kershaw, T. (2019). Investigating intimate partner violence victimization and reproductive coercion victimization among young pregnant and parenting couples: A longitudinal study. Psychology of Violence, 9(3), 278–287.

What are some relationship Inner Rules your client may have? To select and enter your answer go to

Section 29
Table of Contents