Can A Verbal Abuser Change?
Can a verbal abuser change? I've heard that question so many times and it is always delivered with a longing tone. Verbal abuse victims very much want their abuser to want to change. Some verbal abusers honestly do want to change. I don't know how rare those types of abusers are, and there's no way to know if your partner wants to change by listening to what they say because it is so easy to lie.
Can A Verbal Abuser Change Without Saying A Word?
A verbal abuser who wants to change will not have to say a word. He or she will, however, prove that change is happening because the abuse will end. Eventually. It is a good idea to have individual therapists at this point, not marital counseling.
Abusers want you to pay attention to their words, not their actions, because
- their words can be so sweet and convincing (causing you to stay) or
- so hateful and mean (causing you to doubt your perceptions and abilities).
Diverting your attention to what they say over what they do keeps you under their control - that is how verbal abuse works and why it is so effective. Proof of change is in their consistent action and behavior. You can simply ignore their words.
When you point out discrepancies between what they say and what they do, the ones who do not plan to change abuse you more. The abuse can be sugar-coated lies that sound like apologies or it can be a thundering accusation about how you never give them a chance. No matter how the abuse reveals itself, the point is to put you back into your place as the unquestioning partner who shuts up and acts how they're supposed to act.
Testing To See If Your Abuser Can Change
I spent many years going back and forth in my head between wondering if he was the problem or if I was. Or if he had a mental disorder or if I did!
Finally, after realizing I was dealing with domestic violence and abuse and not a mental disorder, I decided to follow Patricia Evans' advice in her book The Verbally Abusive Man: Can He Change? I prepared a contract similar to the one she prescribes, then gave it to my husband.
The first test is to see if your partner is willing to work with you on the contract.
- If they are not willing, you'll know they won't change.
- If they are willing but does not hold up their end of the contract (through their actions and behaviors), you'll know they won't change.
- Or, if you see definite signs of change in their behavior, then the miracle of miracles, they could change.
- On the other hand, they could change for just long enough for you to think they've changed, then revert back to abuse. At this point, believing there was real change, you will feel more confused than ever and probably immediately start to blame yourself for their abuse (again).
The contract I made doesn't exactly follow the plan in Ms. Evans's book because I'd already left my husband when I wrote it. If you want to see it anyway, you can view it here.
My ex-husband took it and read it. When I saw him next, he said, "I will never go to counseling." That was that. The divorce proceeded.
Can You Change Your Noble Desire To Help Your Abuser Change?
In earlier days I may have continued trying to convince my husband to go to therapy, believing in my heart that it was in his best interest. This time, after studying domestic abuse and analyzing his answer with my brain, I decided to believe him when he said he would never go to counseling.
Everything he had ever done (his actions) supported his statement. There was no reason to disbelieve him. And if he couldn't accept outside help for himself or for us, then I couldn't continue the relationship.
Some decisions are absolute deal-breakers. (Example of a deal-breaker? See What is Battering?)
I wish I could tell you a sure-fire way to get from thinking you know what is best for your partner and believing that they know what is best for them. That thinking leans toward co-dependency and is an attempt by you to control the abuser. Sure, your motive for wanting to control them is noble, but giving your partner the ability to answer and you believing their answer is just plain smart. (If your abuser constantly lies, believing the lies and going on about your business will confuse him or her for a change!)
In fact, everyone, even mean nasty abusers, deserve to lead their lives as they see fit. Who are we to tell them otherwise? Leaving or staying with an abusive partner boils down to giving them control over themselves only. To do that, you must believe them when they say "I like who I am." Then you have to decide if you can live with your partner just as s/he is, or if the behavior is a deal-breaker for you.
*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.
Holly, K. (2013, October 13). Can A Verbal Abuser Change?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2013/10/can-abusers-change
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
The difficult part is that I love him. And that I believe that all relationships have their issues, perhaps staying in this and working on this issue is my best way in this world. Maybe he will change? Maybe just maybe he will respect me for me? And value me as I am?
He embarrassed me so badly in front of his family while i lived there at the time when we got into arguments or when i told him something, he says something that hits below the waist. My feelings are hurt from this. He ripped my clothes, through my stuff out and called me a bitch, that i am fat and ugly. He could do better, i am broke and nothing, he can have a better type of woman than me and says my attitude is the worst and no other man is going to put up with me and if i do get a man he gonna abuse me and treat me like trash but in the back of mind that’s happening now. He had snappish ways if i was to tell him eat a sandwich or if i'm out with family and there was no room i told him to sit on the floor he gotten real upset with me and when he got me alone. He made me feel worst.To make matters worst he was an ex gang banger, so the story he told i thought about too.
Don’t get me wrong he has a good ways but the bad ways over power it so much i forgot it. If i needed anything he would do it, jump up per say. I give him that but it wasn't right for me. As the time being in relationship i had health problems dealing with over excessive bleeding with top of something else but i was in a dark place from that and i thought he understood it he showed it and told me he did. But i was wrong. He made me feel so dirty about myself. I had semi confidence about myself but it was shattered by being with him, to the point if you tell me i am beautiful i do not believe it. Cause he made me feel real low about myself. He compare me to his past relationship, he wanted to change who i am and said i was trying to change him but all i wanted to do was help him and love him the way i could. Yes i admit i am not affectionate but i was willing to learn that but i was playful and silly so i was showing my affection through that. I guess that wasn’t enough. I been depress so much while being with him while being scared. He threaten me if i was to leave him and said i wasted his time but only to have me beat up so badly. So i was afraid to leave and i couldn't even believe i was letting him do this to me because this is unlike me, i am strong but that went out the window being with him.
Are arguments are so awful he says a lot of hurtful things to me and all i would say okay deshawn you are digging yourself into a grave. I told him i even gave him warning signs if i go back to my old self you not going to like it. He’s born again christian and told me several times he spoken to God about us and he sees what he is doing wrong but only reverts back to his old self. He stay judging me and others around him because he went to church. But i started to fight back after he choke me again for saying something hurtful to him but i wanted to show him what it feels like saying hurtful things to me but i got hurt in the process. He never once punch me only choke me but that is still wrong.
I haven't told my parents everything about it because i know i don’t want to give that bad of image of him. So i keep protecting till this day. In the midst of him trying to fix himself to be better he was trying to rush me to get over the pain and suffering he cause and i told him it doesn't happen that fast. Until one night he stop pressuring it and i told him we gonna do better. Why did i keep lying to myself. I didn't’ want to be with him anymore, i don't want a relationship anymore. I was struggling with that for a long time. All the while he kept saying i'm going to change then with back and i started to believe less and less on what he said.
Now my heart is cold and i am trying to forgive him, i told him i will remain to help him get on his feet because he disable now. Why i keep worrying about him? I guess it's because of my conscious i still want to be there for him but i don't want him around me anymore because i need to heal. Even though we not together anymore we still have fights and i cry because he keep asking for another chance. And i don't want it. I told him i don't want you anymore. He realize the damage he done and wants to fix him but wants me to be with him and i don't want too. I need to fix me and i'm slowing going back to me once he is completely gone.
I am 26 now, just graduate from college and i am proud of myself for pushing forward and trying to get back to normal. I realize i am strong for what i been through and fought to keep myself from going under. I do know the healing process starts once i completely get rid of him but didn't really think i was in emotionally damage until i answer some question. I just wanted to share what i been through since being in a 4 ½ years relationship and breaking it off since this year. It's hard but i am making it and will continue to push forward.
Lately it has gotten worse and during our relationship I got more and more depressed. This only shows though, when we argue. "Argue" means he hurts my feelings and verbally and emotionally abuses me. He says things like I am "not worth changing" and that he could replace me anytime. Then the next day he will write the sweetest messages, like I am the perfect girlfriend and the best girlfriend he ever had. These mixed up signals really mess with my head. He broke up so many times with me but he always comes back (after I beg, I must admit).
This stress has taken such toll on me, that I started hurting myself and contemplated suicide. He literally drove me insane. In the beginning he was understanding and wanted to help me. He was very supportive. We both thought this was the damage from my past engagement that was showing. Now I've come to realize this has all to do with him.
I will finally go for therapy. I realized that my happiness is solely dependent on me. I want to break up with him and hope it will make him change and come back. If not, I don't know how I will deal with the pain. I feel we invested so much in this almost impossible LDR. I once suggested therapy for him too and he was open for it. But nothing happened.
I am scared that if I break up with him he will abuse me again. I also have to add that he is a narcissist, and he openly admits it. I never met a meaner person in my life, but on the other hand I do know for a fact that he loves me dearly. Otherwise he would be long gone. Should I just end it with him or try to work it out on terms of a contract? I feel in our case it is more difficult but we are currently 6000 miles apart. If I end it it might be easy for him to not come back and forget his feelings for me. This is the hardest decision of my life. We have/had something so good...
With everything I read in your comment, I suggest you leave him. A contract with him will be a lie, no matter what he says or if he signs it.
The only "good" you've experienced with this man is when he's honeymooning you, setting you up for failure.
Here's a list of what you do now: http://verbalabusejournals.com/how-stop-abuse/first-steps-abuse-victims/
Few people are aware of how much words can hurt someone who is suffering from illness like depression. Some peoples realities are more sensitive to changes and fluctuations in the environment and I believe that you are promoting a higher consciousness by encouraging people to be more aware of the language they are using to communicate with others. Let's continue to use words to do good to others and hopefully we can avoid from hurting each other's feelings too much. =p
There is no way to control her feelings for you. You must do what is right (get yourself straight) and release her. By releasing her, I mean admit to her you know what you've done, apologize and tell her exactly what you're doing to end the behavior. This doesn't mean she will or must forgive you - you must give up on the idea that you can "fix" her. She must fix herself. IMO, counseling for you (NOT marriage counseling) is great, and you're already doing that. Consider a sobriety program, and think of ways to reduce your stress levels daily, not just when they're building. Doing this alone, meaning without her in the home, will help more than with her there.
I see you had childhood trauma, and it's important to discuss those with your therapist. I suggest you also ask him/her for some cognitive behavioral therapy so you can catch yourself thinking the thoughts that lead to abusing.
I recommend Patricia Evans book, "The Verbal Abuser: Can He Change?" solely for the contractual information. You could make a contract with yourself - it would be great guidance for you. If your wife doesn't take you back, you'll be a more loving man for someone else in the future. (Don't rush into another relationship - it will likely have the same dynamic as the one you experience with your wife).
Besides that, doing a search on "how to stop abusing my wife" turned up quite a few reputable sites. Always check where you're getting your information - you want the good stuff. You can also visit http://thehotline.org and call or chat to find programs near you meant for batterers (not that you hit her, but that the info would be helpful). Verbal abuse, in time, always leads to physical violence.
Good luck to you. I'm happy that you recognized and admitted your problem. That's always the first step to any solution.
I read your contract and found it very inspiring. And obviously very effective! Yes, I've read both of Patricia Evans' books, but while they were eye-opening in many ways, they still left me confused and undecided.
I like the idea of a year apart and have already considered suggesting something like this. Unfortunately, however, there are two major reasons that speak against this.
For one, I fear it would upset and confuse our adolescent kids, who could get quite destabilized by constantly wondering whether their parents will stay together or get divorced. I feel we owe them clarity, not more confusion (because they are, of course, already aware that something isn't right).
Moreover, we don't have the money to sustain two separate homes, and since my husband is the main breadwinner, and vehemently opposed to separating, he would simply refuse to help pay for a second place.
Anyway, I obviously don't expect you to resolve my problems -- I'll have to think this over for a while longer and consider my options. (God, I'm so fed up with losing sleep over this marriage!).
Thank you very much for your input and for this fantastic resource, which, I see, has been very helpful for so many of us!
The reason I put up with this situation for as long as I did is that we have 3 children and I am financially dependent on my husband. (I shouldered the vast majority of the child-rearing and home-making responsibilities, so was unable to also earn a decent income.)
Last summer -- after a year of individual counseling made me realize just how destructive my marriage was -- I told my husband I was leaving him because I couldn't bear the abuse any more. We did 10 sessions of marital counseling, which stopped the hostility (apart from occasional flare-ups), and he started seeing an individual therapist 2 months ago. He is also seeing a therapist with our eldest son, whom he had also damaged with this abusive behavior.
He is now much calmer with me and our children and is even taking care of occasional jobs around the house. He has apologized for the abuse and has promised to work on himself to become a kinder, more loving partner. However, while I used to be endlessly forgiving for 20 years, I now find myself unwilling to reconnect and get closer with him, despite his repeated assurances that he is changing, and his pleas for a second chance.
Why is it that, after wanting him to be a loving husband all those years, I am now not willing/able to give him another chance? I am trying to let go of the past, forgive and forget, but the hurt runs so deep that I find it impossible to trust him and to believe that he will really, truly, fundamentally change. The only way I feel comfortable relating to him is at a great distance (I have been sleeping separately for 8 months and we have hardly any interactions), and the thought of letting him back into my heart, or returning to his bed, sends shudders down my spine. Am I a vengeful, cold-hearted bitch? Or are my instincts (which I ignored for all those years) right in telling me that he will never fundamentally change?
Here's the thing. Some people will change, fundamentally and permanently. Your husband's willingness to go to individual counseling is a good sign, but then it's been only 2 months. The counseling with your eldest son is a good thing, too.
Unfortunately, all of these great changes could be a scam. He could be acting nicely because he's setting up for divorce behind your back. He could be setting you up with the longest "honeymoon" period he's ever given. There's no way to know.
How about a compromise with yourself for the time being? No one says you have to be physically together while he works out his issues. The trust is broken, you're still walking on eggshells and you haven't yet seen for yourself any real change. What is 2 months of being "good" to 20 years of abusing you? You say you're only comfortable from a distance, so get some more distance. If he is truly working with his counselor, he will understand why you want to "get away" from him for awhile. Tell him that you want a year (or whatever time you decide) apart, separate houses, and then make up your mind if the relationship can work.
All I'm saying is that you're 50% of that relationship whether he wants you to be or not. You figure out what is good for you. You are not a cold-hearted bitch. That sounds like something he would say to you. I'd bet on your instincts any day.
If you haven't read it already, Patricia Evans wrote a book called "The Verbally Abusive Man: Can He Change?" In it, you'll find a contract of sorts you can present to him. It worked really well for me - not because my husband agreed to do it, but because he didn't take it seriously.
In the past 4 years things have changed. Alcohol has become a problem. My husband is an alcoholic but I have asked him to stop drinking and he has told me "no I will never stop I am a alcoholic". He has been verbally abusive up until 4 week ago. He seems to be trying, and tells me he is trying and that he loves me and will not lash out to me anymore and will NOT fight with me anymore. Well.. the issue I have is believing him! I feel like my husband has cheated on me, I cannot seem to move past this! He told me last night that "I need to just divorce him, I will never get past this" ! and I told him I want to move past these feeling but I don't know how!
I have found an Alanon meeting to go too, but the thought of him never quitting his drinking is a problem to me. I really need help. He is just so matter of fact that he is not changing, that I all I want want is for him to sit around, and be old, he told me last night he is always going to be a kid at heart, he is 42 years old. I know what his thought of kid at heart is. I just would love for him to say I will do whatever I need to do to make our marriage work, and DO IT!!!!I am scared to leave him because I do not want to give up, and I do not want to loose my family but I am tired of feeling this way! I do love him and want us to get back to loving each other again but I just don't know where to start?
Please Help! Confused!
If you don't like who he is anymore and feel yourself unable to heal and feel free, then perhaps it is time for you to believe your husband, too. Since you've been asking him to help you save the marriage and he is resisting, he already gave up. You can't give up when the other party does so first. Now you just have to decide what to do to be happy.
Listen to your instinct that the situation doesn't sit right for you... Your intuition is speaking volumes about your boyfriend!
He backed off his verbal abuse just long enough to get you back, and trust me when I say that it will "build up" again (I've been through this countless times).
Run, don't walk, as far away as you can, unless you want to be his maid and constantly made to feel like you're "not good enough" - because in his eyes, you never will be!
The fact that you called him on his crap and he retorts with "you have things to change too" is a very effective way for him to avoid dealing with his behaviour.
You deserve better - you deserve a man who will count his blessings for being with you.
Get out now, before your self-esteem goes down the tubes. I have also been there, and I am in therapy to bring myself back to the vibrant, confident person I used to be.
I have been with my current spouse for 12 years. He has never been physically abusive but I have been called all the names in the book from stupid, thick, dense, screwed up, argumentative, a shit disturber, etc.
His verbal and emotional abuse were so bad that I started having dizzy spells and bouts of severe nausea just thinking how he was treating me. I was in a vulnerable situation - no stable employment, a failed business and I was at a risk for losing everything I worked so hard for. Yet, I am highly educated, intelligent, eloquent, well travelled and am surrounded my loving family and friends who love spending time with me. (He has no friends and is estranged from his siblings.)
Then I had an epiphany. After reading Patricia Evans' book, The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Lundy Bancroft's book, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, and one year of individual therapy (we had done 2 years of couples' therapy to no avail), I FINALLY GOT IT.
His anger, his disproportionate rage, his accusations, were not in response to some provocation on my part. They are about him controlling me and crushing my spirit. He is completely oblivious to his own dynamic. I can now see it for what it is, and his horse manure is quickly losing its effect on me. I still love him, but I detest the way he treats me. We have not been intimate in over 2 years (of course, he blames me for that) as I cannot bring myself to being intimate with someone who does not care about my feelings anymore.
It has become so bad that this is how our "conversations" go. He will spend 15 minutes spewing out all him venom at me, telling me how everything is my fault, and that if I just learned to "shut up and do as I'm told", we wouldn't have any problems, etc. Then, when he's finished, he actually says "OK I'm finished. Now go away. I don't give a sh*t what you have to say." So after a couple of those "monologues", I now promptly excuse myself and leave the room. He then turns it around and says "See? See? You just refuse to look at your flaws! No wonder we can't resolve anything!" It takes the patience of an angel not to fight back and tell him to bugger off!
I still have moments of weakness but am getting stronger every day. I know the day will come soon when I will say "I have had enough" and that will be end for us. The thought makes me sad, but at the same time, I must do this to preserve my own sanity and well-being. I have no intention of living like this until I die.
Incidentally, as soon as I started regaining confidence in my abilities, I have been getting interesting and very lucrative contract work and my career prospects (I changed careers just 4 years ago and I will be 60 soon) look very promising.
I say to all you women out there: There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and you are not alone!
I say to all you men out there: If she starts telling you that she feels like she's "walking on eggshells", she misses what you used to have, she shuts down sexually, TAKE NOTICE! She's trying to send you a message and you need to start listening with your heart, if you don't want to lose her.
He used to do all the classic signs with anything I raised about his behaviour or pain he caused me (minimising, denial, blaming, gas lighting) and for the first time since we have been together he is remorseful as I have left. He has apologised occasionally and over the summer he admitted to overreacting sometimes. That took a lot of effort to get him to say that. Despite screaming every two months that he wants a divorce during rage he now says this is the last thing he wants and he will now get help and see a counsellor. He has admitted he has blamed me too much (all problems were ultimately mine - to the point that he insisted I saw a therapist which I did over the summer when I begged for marriage counselling and he said to drop it). However still even now he is invested in my playing a role in the poor state of the marriage and saying we need to see someone together eventually, perhaps once he sees a skilled counsellor he will start realising the role of his destructive behaviours. He is a different person in public, charming as anything and so handsome, I am always being told by others who haven't seen the other side of him, that I am so lucky to have him.
Of course, there have been good periods in between and not every day is a nightmare but the years of Blame, intermittent rages and no accountability or admittance have left me feeling so empty and a shadow of my former self. I have a great supportive family who say they will support me no matter what but I feel lost. I am exhausted, confused and lack self esteem. I don't know how to navigate this. Don't feel ready to start again with him or to leave. I love him but I also feel so let down, angry and sad all at once. I question is it love or trauma bonding? The thought of leaving him feels me with sadness about how this happened after investing so much. He says he wants to be a good husband to me now but I don't know if he has the capacity as his thinking seems so distorted and his behaviour has escalated over the years. Scared to stay and go through a honeymoon period and have children and this nightmare start again later I life. I feel he needs to enrol in a domestic abuse perpetrator program before I can consider reconciling but given that he is only now admitting there is a problem and agreeing to seeing a one to one counsellor, I don't feel he would agree to this. Very confused about the path to take. Feel that I have lost my ability to make a good choice.
I am cautious about reconciling as each time we speak since the once time he was
Sorry he has started backtracking and now says it's unfair to say he hit me, though he did and is preoccupied with being portrayed as a 'wife Beater' though I haven't used that term. He hasn't seen a counsellor yet or read a book on abuse I mentioned. It's been nearly 7 weeks since we parted.
I don't say this for attention, I say this in penance, in front of people who are like the ones I have abused. To you all, but especially her, I say I am sorry. I have read your contract and thought of it being handed to me. My response to it is, "Yes." I don't want to lose my fiancee but I know that I must show that most rare of changes in order to hold this, our life, together. I must do this to be an everyday part of my son's life. I want to do this so I can be.
Regardless of whether or not I have actually told her she is useless or worthless (And for the record, I haven't done that - said actual derogatory words), I have made her feel completely useless and worthless. I have blamed her by making her actions as excuses for my anger. I have escalated arguments with words knowing that she will lash out so that I can make her the 'abuser'. I have rejected any simple criticism by refusing to admit any wrongdoing. I'm glad to see that I am not the only abuser making a confession here, it gives me hope that I may be able to change this before it is too late.
I am no longer going to blame and excuse my mental state by a cycle that I have the power to end. My past will not define my future. Until today, I have abused. No more.
Right now I'm feeling confused, I feel that if I had stayed gone, it's was the wrong thing to do and now that I'm back, it was the wrong thing to do and I did not give myself time to fully think. I think this is going to drive me crazy. I know he wants to change, but how do I know that years from now, he'll go back to his old self? How do I know his addictions won't come back?
Then I'll have wasted a few more years of my life for nothing.
He also denies that his secretary was his mistress, He'll never admit it. I asked that he fire her and he said he will, to give him 2 weeks. How will I know they've truly kept away from each other. I work and he's self employed, so I can't be around him all the time. she also has many phone numbers, he could be calling a unknown number and I'd have no idea that he doesn't talk to her.
I'm so confused and I don't know what to do. I just wish I knew what God wants me to do.
As a side note, women have yet to write me to say that they were controlling and saw the light. I wonder why that is.
I know it's hard - but a week of happiness isn't worth the threats and mean things he says and does. If he loved you, he wouldn't threaten your marriage. He would leave you alone.
You cannot make him go to counseling. He doesn't think he needs it, so nothing that happens in therapy will help or change him. You do need to go to a therapist and not because he says so but because you need individual help to decide what you want and the best strategies to get there. You will remain in that cycle until you do something different. Right now you're a source of fuel for the abuse, and I know you don't want to be the fuel for something that will burn you alive.
Go to counseling.
Can I change if I am 200% committed and this is really the first time I am aware, understand what I was doing, researching my actions, getting tips to resolve, etc.
I feel that now I fully understand; I can change. Please help me or reach out to me if possible. My world is falling apart.