< Lesson 3. Free online Tutorial for Learning the Respect-Me RULES >

Section 3: The Respect-Me R.U.L.E.S.

Earn your Verbal Abuse Defense Certificate

Section 3 will familiarize you with the Rules you should be enforcing in your life in order not to allow abuse. This online tutorial in not the same as the workbook for practicing your skills to enforce these rules, it is only to get you used to the idea that there are specific boundaries you must set and enforce.

To actually enforce the rules and learn how to implement them, you should join a verbal abuse support group and use the Respect-Me Rules Workbook in conjunction with the text. The workbook provides many hands on exercises and skill development for you to implement and is the natural followup to this online workshop.


Title K. Set Your Boundaries
Rule 1: Respect Me, I Deserve and Demand Respect
Rule 2: Never Defend or Explain
Rule 3: Do not Accept Derogatory Statements or Action
Rule 4. Respond with Strength
Rule 5. Remove Yourself
Rule 6: Use Repetition
Rule 7. Do not Reward Negative Behavior
Rule 8. Do Not Keep their Secrets
Rule 9. Record and Journal Everything
Rule 10. Call Attention to Abuse
Rule 11. Use a Prompt
Rule 12. Be a Model of Respectful Behavior

Title K. Set Your Boundaries

Setting a boundary

means setting a limit on the treatment you are willing to accept.

A more detailed explanation can be found in Codependents Anonymous Groups. If you are not already involved in CoDA, you should be attempting to locate a group now. Once you have decided you are no longer willing to tolerate poor treatment, accusations, blame, humiliation, and any other tactic intended to hurt you, it is time to define your boundaries so that later you may learn to enforce them.

There are three parts to boundary setting.

(1) Pause and Choose. Chose to demand respect. When your partner mounts an attack, do not get defensive or try to please them in response to the abuse. Just choose whether you will allow it or instead enforce the Respect-Me Rules.

(2) Set Boundaries. Decide which behaviors you find unacceptable (be as specific as possible.) EX: I will not be called names by anyone. It is not necessary to communicate your boundary to the abuser, but you can if you wish. Again, using these techniques does not require any explanation. They work because of your actions, not necessarily your words.

(3) Implement Consequences. This refers to what you will do in response to your partner's abuse. Only chose consequences you are willing to enforce. Describe what action you will take to enforce your boundary and protect yourself when the boundary is violated. EX: If my spouse calls me a name, I will leave the house for 2 hours. (You can make this anything that seems appropriate to you.)


How this sequence works comes from the Setting Personal Boundaries web site. The target described in this web site chose to set a very strict boundary:

If you ever hit me, I will call the police and press charges - and I will leave this relationship. If you continue to threaten me, I will get a restraining order and prepare to defend myself in whatever manner is necessary.

A less drastic boundary-setting scenario might go like this:

If you order me to do something, I will not do it. I do not take orders from anyone. I will continue to do what I was doing while ignoring you, until you treat me with respect.

Boundry setting is not easy

and requires consistency.

Your support group can help you master the techniques. Boundary setting is the foundation for the Respect-me Rules and is discussed in depth at the beginning of Chapter Three. In the meantime:

We will send you a Boundary Setting Bookmark Guide to carry with you.

Rule 1. Respect Me, I Deserve and Demand Respect.

Cultivate a change in attitude. Now that you know no one has the right to mistreat you, your new attitude will be to demand respect. You will not tolerate anything less. This new attitude will send a nonverbal message (or even verbal if you want to tell you partner about your newly adopted attitude). Your new attitude will show in your voice tone, posture, and nonverbal body language. Have you ever noticed the confidence that exudes from a military general? Your determination to be strong, not subservient, and not engage when the abuser is mistreating you will send a strong message that your abuser will notice. If you decide to tell your abuser about your new respect-me approach, you can use any of a variety of communication strategies, whatever you feel the most comfortable with. You can notify your partner face-to-face, in a letter, by phone, or email.

This is discussed on page 24 in the Respect-Me Rules book. The exercises to master the technique are covered in the Respect-Me rules workbook.

It is important to reinforce your new found attitude.

1) Download and print these affirmations
2) Write down three affirmations on a note card that demonstrate your new-found attitude
3) Keep it handy and review it when you need a boost

Refer to this a few times every day and say them out loud for 11 days. Eleven days is how long it takes to develop a new habit. By doing this, you are instilling your new attitude into your mindset, belief system, and demeanor.

You will also list your three affirmations on your Completion Form at the end of this Section.

Rule2. Never Defend.

Do not try to justify yourself when the abuser accuses you of something. The thing about abusers is that no matter what you say, they will turn your words against you. The abuser will twist, turn around, misinterpret and use your excuses or explanations to abuse you further. Don't explain why you were late, your behavior, appearance, choice for dinner, or anything when the communication with you is abusive--whenever he is putting you down, criticizing, calling you names, yelling, humiliating, being sarcastic--you get the picture. Trying to get them to "understand" has not worked to improve your relationship in the past and only gives them fuel to find other ways to make you wrong. Learn to respond in ways that do not involve explaining yourself, defending your actions, or showing them your good intentions.

This does not mean that you never talk to your partner. You only interact if they treat you with respect. If not, the conversation is over. You may use Rule #3 but don't explain what you are doing to prevent them from sucking you back into a defensive position.

Go to page 27 in your Respect-Me Rules book and read Respect-Me Rule #2 to see examples of how this rule works. The exercises to master the technique are covered in the Respect-Me Rules workbook.

Rule 3: Do not Accept Derogatory Statements

It is important that you learn not to react to name calling. If he or she says "You need to lose weight. Your ass is as fat as a hippo," you can respond with "I don't believe that." If he or she says, "Well, it's true," then simply say, "You can believe whatever you want, but I don't believe it." This is a far superior response to falling apart emotionally and crying with the refrain, "Why do you always put me down? Why can't you treat me better?" Likewise, you should not call him names back either. The goal is to take away his power and control over your emotional reactions. If you do this, he will not be reinforced for having control over you and your emotions and his bad behavior is likely to begin to extinguish over time because it is not getting him what he wants.

Go to page 28 in your Respect-Me Rules book and read Respect-Me Rule #3 to see examples of not accepting derogatory statements.

For clarification we want you to study the Bullies 2 Buddies website and understand how you can take away the power of your abuser and still be "nice" to him or her. It is by using the Golden Rule. Read this article: The True Meaning of the Golden Rule: Love Your Bullies

At first the article might not seem related to what you want to know. It is, so read to the end. The principle behind this is rooted in science. You might say, "But the article says to be nice to the bully and you tell us not the reward your partner for bad behavior--isn't that the same?" No--we never want to bully back. And being "nice" doesn't mean you have to do what they say or allow them to call you names and say ugly things about you.

Consider your abusive spouse the bully and ask yourself how you will stop him calling you names without being a bully back.

Hint: The two most important paragraphs for you are towards the end of the article: 1. Treating people like friends does not mean that we must give them everything they want. 2. Anti-bully activists have been trying to promote the GR.

You will be asked some questions in the Completion Form about how you can stop derogatory statements without being mean back.

Warning: Being nice to your bully does not mean reward them for bad behavior. It's a principle you must understand. It means you are not mean to them when they are mean to you, and you don't let them continue to be mean. You tell them to stop, use the hand stop sign, leave the house if they don't stop calling you names--any number of our suggestions will work. the principle is that you gain control of yourself and the situation--not control them--when you nicely stop them from bullying you.

Rule 4. Respond with Strength

This is what Patricia Evans suggests in her pioneering book The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Expanded Third Edition: How to recognize it and how to respond.

You can use the stop sign technique as part of your responding with strength. When your partner responds to you in an inappropriate and unacceptable way, hold up your hand like a traffic cop--palm facing your abuser and say, "Stop! You are not allowed to talk to me that way." Than resume what you were doing.

Go to page 30 in your Respect-Me Rules book and read Respect-Me Rule #4 to see examples of this rule. The exercises to master the technique are covered in the Respect-Me Rules workbook.

Rule 5: Remove Yourself Protecting yourself by leaving

Remove yourself whenever the situation is intolerable. Situations that might warrant you leaving, spending the night at your mom's, going to a friend's, going for a walk, taking yourself to a movie are:

  • If they are drunk and abusive
  • Give you the silent treatment for a long long time
  • Stay argumentative when you refuse to engage
  • Act intimidating by gestures or threatening language
  • Destroy the house or personal property
  • Hurts or scares your pet
  • Scares your kids (if they hurt the kids, call the police)

One target in Evan's book described what she did when her boyfriend undermined her conversations or gave her the silent treatment. Her favorite response was, "I don't like your attitude" or "I'm not having any fun with you. I'm going to go do such & such." Evans suggests, "I'm feeling very bored with your company." Then nurture yourself in some special way--trip to the spa, have your nails done, catch a movie.

Go to page 31 in your Respect-Me Rules book and read about Respect-Me Rule #5. The exercises to master the technique are covered in the Respect-Me rules workbook.

You will be elaborating on this in the Completion Form at the end of this section.

Rule 6: Use Repetition

Repetition assures you will be heard and get a response. This is a great technique from assertiveness training. Just keep repeating yourself until you get an answer. Do not allow them to turn the situation around on you by accusing you of something else or change the subject so you get lost in some other argument.

The mastery of assertiveness skills increases our self esteem and helps us achieve our goals. Exercise 6 includes improving your assertiveness skills. Go to the assertiveness training and communication website. ImpactFactory. Repetition (also known as the 'broken record' technique) is one of the six main techniques for assertiveness. It allows you to feel comfortable by dodging manipulative verbal traps. The Impact Factory explains repetition in technique number 2 (Broken Record). They define repetition and give good examples on how to use it. Practice with their examples. Make up a few of your own.

Also go to page 32 in your Respect-Me Rules book and read about Respect-Me Rule #6. The exercises to master the technique are covered in the Respect-Me rules workbook.

Rule 7. Do not reward nasty and negative behavior.

A huge secret in emotionally abusive relationships is that we train people how to treat us. If we jump when they yell, we have just taught them that yelling works with us. If they act mean, and we meet their demands to be nice, we are teaching them to continue to be mean to us because it works--they got what they wanted. The following scenarios show how to respond to various abusive tactics.

Criticism: An abuser typically criticizes the way a target does things. The target's tendency is to try to please the abuser and stop the criticism by "correcting" one's so-called deficiencies to the satisfaction of the abuser. Here's a typical example. The target is washing windows with paper towels. The abuser snaps, "That's a stupid way to clean windows." He then condescendingly explains that the "proper" way to wash windows is with a squee-gee so that you don't waste paper towels and leave lint all over the window. Although this way seem harmless, if you give in to his rude approach, it is a prelude to a proliferation of criticism because you have just rewarded his nastiness. The self-respecting response would be, "Here. If you have a better way to clean the windows, be my guest" and hand him the bottle of cleaner. Then go about another task. This throws cold water on his attempt to gain power at your expense. Watch how fast this technique extinguishes bad behavior!

Anger and rage: Often we try to placate our mates when they get hostile. We do extra niceties to convince them we love them and didn't mean to make them angry. If you get nicer when they get meaner, what does that teach them? It teaches them that being mean with you brings them rewards. Instead, when they treat you badly, you should immediately draw upon the the techniques that will stop it. Do not walk on eggshells, do not do more for them, and do not comply with unreasonable demands. It just keeps the cycle going.

Go to page 36 in your Respect-Me Rules book and read about Respect-Me Rule #7. The exercises to master the technique are covered in the Respect-Me rules workbook.

Rule 8. Do Not Keep Their Secrets.

Tell as many people as you can. We have learned repeatedly that we are only as sick as our secrets. Emotional abuse should not be hidden under the vale of secrecy any more than violence should. It is healthier for both partners to have everything out in the open. Those who employ most of these strategies will soon find there is little abuse that needs to be exposed. However, when these abuse-stopping strategies are first employed, everyone within reason should be told what is going on. It's like smoking. The more people you tell, the harder it will be for you to go back into the dark cycle of abuse.

John Prinn, author of Stolen Hours, has two very good articles on his web site regarding secrets and why you should not keep them. He writes,

Keeping secrets can make us neurotic. Secrets can be so toxic that a person is driven to self-destructive and insane acts. Then come the addictions, the violence, the lying and alibis ... even suicide.

Read these great Articles

Read Prinn's articles. There is no need to send anything to the moderators at this point. This is food for thought and will add to your growing knowledge about how to deal with emotional abuse.

Confessions of a Liberated Secret Keeper
Are Secrets Good or Bad?

Also, on our handout page:The Top 10 Reasons to EX-pose your EX, you will find a section with some suggestions on how to stop keeping their secrets.

Go to page 37 in your Respect-Me Rules book and read about Respect-Me Rule #8. The exercises to master the technique are covered in the Respect-Me Rules Workbook.

Rule 9. Record and Journal Everything.

This is one of the best abuse-stopping techniques. Abusers have a tendency to rewrite history and "forget" the way things really happened. You can use journaling to keep the record straight and prevent your partner from driving you crazy through

and rewriting history.

A second variation of this technique is to use a recorder. Whip it your phone or a small recording device and point the microphone toward the abuser every time he or she starts yelling or threatening. One target found this technique worked so well she eventually did not have to use it. She initially kept it in her pocket and clicked it on each time he approached. Soon her husband learned to leave her alone because he expected to be recorded.

Go to page 39 in your Respect-Me Rules book and read about Respect-Me Rule #9. The exercises to master the techniques are covered in the Respect-Me Rules Workbook.

Rule 10. Call Attention to Verbal Abuse.

Abusive behavior often becomes so habitual that the abuser does not even know he is being abusive. When your abuse alarm goes off and you catch your abuser disrespecting you, you can point out the abuse. For instance you can say, "You're yelling and it scares me." Your partner will then become aware of the abuse and can make his own choice as to whether to continue or stop. If he choses to stop, your strategy has worked. If not, then just go into your consequence mode by saying something like, "I don't allow anyone to yell at me. I'm going out." If this would antagonize him or escalate the situation, then you can just let your action do the talking and simply leave without saying anything.

Go to page 40 in your Respect-Me Rules book and read about Respect-Me Rule #10. The exercises to master the technique is covered in the Respect-Me Rules Workbook.

Rule 11. Use a Prompt.

A prompt is just a reminder. Reminders can as simple as wearing a button that says "Respect Me." It could also be a plaque placed on top of the fireplace mantle, a computer screen saver banner, or a flyer stuck to the refrigerator.

Many examples of good prompts you can use are found listed on Page 153 of the Respect-Me Rules book.
Use prompts to help remind you.

RespectRule 12. Model Respectful Behavior.

This rule derives from a powerful type of learning called Observational Learning. It basically states that people can learn by imitating the behavior of others. For instance, children learn to cuss by hearing it from others and then imitating the bad behavior. Likewise, if our partner calls us a name, we often respond by calling them a choice name back, if we are not afraid. Unfortunately, this justifies (in their mind) their future bad behavior. I can just hear the abuser rationalizing why he continues to call his wife names. "Well you should hear what she calls me. She cusses at me all the time!"

Responding to bad behavior with a bad response is a trap. It only serves to perpetuate the abuse. We don't want to give abusers any reason to treat us badly. This rule also contains an added bonus. If we respond to tense situations from what Eric Berne calls the "adult ego state," then we are modeling the right way to treat someone we love.

Go to page 43 in your Respect-Me Rules book and read about Respect-Me Rule #12 to see examples of how to implement this rule.

There is no exercise for Role Modeling that you need to send in. You either act the way you think an adult acts or you act like a brat or victim. If you are religious or spiritual say to yourself, "What would my angel do in this situation?"

If you are not religious, think of a an historical person that you greatly admire and ask, "What would this person do in this situation?"


Most of the time these strategies will stop or slow the abuse. They certainly change the dynamics and stop you from standing still with an apple on your head while your abuser shoots arrows.

In Shelly's case (one of the hosts), once the abuse stopped, she and her husband realized there was nothing of value in the marriage. It was the chaos--his abuse and her overpowering co-dependency that held the marriage together. They found they had little in common and did not even enjoy each other's company. When his abuse stopped (which her newfound techniques had pretty much accomplished), she realized she was living with a depressed, paranoid room mate--not a loving husband.

Many targets actually would have a loving relationship if their partner treated them well. Remember we want you to stay with your partner and learn how to demand the respect you deserve. If your partner has mental problems or is in no way going to stop abusing--then most probably he will leave you once you master these 12 Respect-me Rules. Even if you master these Rules and your partner leaves you, you will now have gained the skills to stop abuse before it starts--or at the least be able to recognize what you don't want in your next partner.

Completion Form for Section 3

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